Nasty polished the headlight on what she referred to as the Peregrine-cycle. I miss my bike, she thought. I miss home. I miss Eric; I miss Mom, even. I've been here almost a week, and who knows how long I was in that fucking tube. Can't go home, though. Those assholes will expect me to show up there. It's not so bad here. I'm starting to get used to being called Jessica. Don't know why I picked that name, though. Makes me sound like one of Tia's friends.
The intercom buzzed. Nasty draped her rag over the Peregrine-cycle, then answered the call. "Jessica, Peregrine is on her way," Anne said through the speaker. "Is the motorcycle ready?"
"It is," Nasty said. Time to change. "When is Peregrine supposed to leave?"
"She's meeting Eagle at City Hall in twenty minutes."
"I'll let her know." This is getting ridiculous. Just tell me to get dressed without all this BS.
Nasty ran to a nearby change room. Her Peregrine costume hung neatly in a locker. She quickly changed, then ran back into the garage. Nasty adjusted her mask in a futile attempt to have it sit comfortably on her. Okay, City Hall. Where the hell is City Hall? She picked up the phone, then dialed Kathryn's number. "Hello, Kathryn?"
"I'm sorry, Ms McCall isn't available," a woman's voice answered. "May I take a message?"
"It's okay, um, Nicky, is it?"
"Micki, right. Micki, it's Peregrine. How do I get to City Hall from here?"
"You haven't checked your heads-up display?" Micki asked.
"What heads-up display?"
"Rookies," Micki muttered. "Your helmet should have a heads-up display. Hasn't Jessica shown you yet?"
"She's busy right now," Nasty said. How the hell am I supposed to show myself something I was never told about?
"When you see her, tell her to see me."
"What about City Hall?"
"I'll have a map for you in five minutes," Micki said. "Meet me in the lobby." She broke the connection.
Nasty stared at the handset she still held. She hung up. "That was useful," she muttered. She got on the motorcycle. Lobby, huh? She better be there. Nasty started the engine, then roared out of the garage. Lights flashed by her as she drove through tunnels to reach the street.
Nasty cruised around the block to get to the main entrance of the Foundation's office building. She dismounted and dashed inside. Where is Micki? she wondered. People around her gasped in awe. Oh, great. Last thing I want is an autograph session. Smiling meekly, Nasty waved at the visitors in the lobby. Micki, get your ass over here now!
A young woman pushed her way through the crowd. "Peregrine! Oh, good, you're here."
"Micki, right?" Nasty asked.
"Right. Have you seen Jessica yet? Someone needs to talk to her."
"I passed her on my way out. She said no one showed her the heads-up."
"Figures. Okay, you're going to City Hall, right? I've marked out the course on this map. You better hurry. Use your lights if you have to."
Nasty took the map and glanced at it. Simple enough. "Thanks."
"Better get going. You're supposed to be there in fifteen minutes, and traffic gets bad soon," Micki said.
Nasty turned and ran out of the building and back to her motorcycle. She got on, then checked the map again. Let's see, okay, I'm here, City Hall is there, got it. She folded the map up and slipped it into a side compartment. Better get going. Nasty switched the engine on, then zoomed down the street.
Following Micki's directions, Nasty arrived at City Hall ten minutes later. She parked the bike, then ran inside. She found Eagle waiting for her in the lobby. He ushered her quickly into a conference room on the third floor. In the room, several men and women wearing suits stood up at their arrival.
"I believe you've heard about Peregrine," Eagle said.
"Thanks, Eagle," one of the men said. "What we're about to tell you can't leave this room."
Under her mask, Nasty raised an eyebrow. What the hell's going on?
One of the women walked over to a VCR on the table in the centre of the room as everyone else sat. "Eagle, Peregrine, the mayor's office received the following video tape last night. He wanted you to see this before we went public with it." She turned off the lights, then started the VCR.
The image of two identical women appeared. The only difference were their costumes - where one of the women had red, the other had orange. They leaned towards the camera. Oh, lovely, Nasty though.
"Good morning, Mayor," the women said in unison.
"I'm sure you remember us," one said. "I'm Cinder and this is my sister Ember."
"Hi, Mayor," Ember purred. "Miss us?"
"We really do love your city, Mayor," Cinder said. "That's why we're sending you this tape. We thought it'd be sporting to give you a chance."
"You see, Mayor, we really wouldn't want to burn down a building just to show you we're serious. You know we are."
"So, to be fair, we're giving you this limited time offer. You send us ten million dollars, and we don't torch a thing."
"In fact, we'll give you a free burn. We'll burn down anything you want, and it won't cost you a dime."
"We know that you'll need time to think about it," Cinder said, "so we'll give you a week."
"Send up fireworks over Frontier Field next Thursday. We'll know you've agreed to our offer."
"And tell Eagle not to bother finding us. We'd spot him a mile away."
Ember blew a kiss at the camera. "Ta!" The image on screen faded to black.
Nasty blinked as the lights came back on. What the hell was that? She looked over at Eagle. Follow his lead. He better know what he's doing.
"When did this arrive?" Eagle asked.
"Yesterday, in the mail," an older man said.
"Did you have your forensics teams examine the package, Chief?"
"Thoroughly. Lots of fingerprints, nothing usable. The package was postmarked Buffalo three days ago."
"It's safe to assume that they've been in town for at least that long, then." Eagle started pacing. "Any unusual fires reported?"
"I've asked the fire department," the chief said. "They're still going through reports."
"What do those two . . . women want?" Nasty asked. "Besides the money."
"They like to set fires," Eagle explained. "The Foundation has a complete file on them."
"That's all? Why the money, then?"
"They're not expecting us to give in to their demands," another woman said. "They've done this before to us, and each time, they've tried burning down something. The last time, it was a church in the suburbs. Eagle managed to stop them."
"Wonderful," Nasty said.
"We need to find where they're hiding," Eagle said. "They're not the type to stay quiet for long. Chief, can you send a copy of the tape to the Foundation?"
"One's already on its way," the chief said.
"Thanks. Peregrine, we have work to do."
[End Issue 20]
Next: Late night brainstorming