We sprinted a few kilometers, I didn't know where we were going, nor did I think we were going in the right direction, but when you're searching for someone in a city this size, any direction is as good as another.
"Stop, we forgot to check in with Furno." Surge said, but I also thought that he was also tired.
Surge got out his Hero Pad, and contacted Furno.
"What's up, Surge?" Furno asked.
"Well…" he started, "The repulsorlifts on the platform got… shut down, and, uh, we… had to get out of there."
"What?! Did you see who did that?"
"Well, uh, no, but-"
"Do you realize that you could've caught them!?"
"No! We didn't, but-"
"Grr! Just, meet me and Breez at the town square. You can join us from there." Furno said, and signed off.
"Surge out." He said, annoyed, "Never seen him like that before."
"He must spend too much time around Stormer." I joked.
"Ha! Ha! Yeah that might be right. So what should we do?"
"We go to the town square."
"You're giving up this easily?"
"And… Keep on going."
"But- but that's disobeying a direct order!"
"Yes, but I have an idea. And I don't want to be interrupted. Come on, let's go." I said, running off.
"You're very unorthodox, Darklite." Surge said.
"Thank you." I called back.
"Lead the way." Surge muttered.
We ran to the town square, and Furno and Breez were waiting for us near a statue.
"Where are they?! They should've been here by now." Furno said, tapping his foot impatiently.
"C'mon, Furno, lighten up." Breez said, "Just because Darklite is new, doesn't mean you can boss him around, plus he's your friend."
"Yeah, I'm just stressed. I want to get Stormer back home safely."
"Wow, that's very noble of you."
"Yeah, I also owe him a favor. He saved me once, so I'll save him. Then we'll be even."
"Uh huh." Breez said, thinking about what Furno said, "Look, here they come."
"Ugh, it's about time they got here." Furno muttered.
"Hey you two!" Breez called, "Furno's been getting a little annoyed while you were coming here."
"Sorry, can't stay and chat, we gotta go." I called.
"Wait, wha- they're not stopping!" Furno said, "Hey! Get back here!" he yelled, sprinting after us.
He outran us, and stepped in front of us.
"Where do you two think you're going?" Furno said, in a commanding voice.
"It was his idea!" Surge said, pointing at me, "Not mine!"
"I don't care whose idea it was, I want to know, why you disobeyed a direct order."
"Dude, lighten up!" I said. Furno glared at me, "I thought we were friends."
Furno was silent.
"Look, if you're not gonna say anything, we're leaving. This is a waste of valuable time."
"Excuse me!?" Furno asked, "A waste of time? A waste of my time, maybe, but this needs to be addressed!"
"There's nothing to address. We want to do this alone, and that's it."
"You, want to do this alone." Surge said.
I looked at him, blankly, "Really!?" I asked, annoyed, "I thought we were in this together."
"I… I'm afraid to disobey orders."
"Why aren't you?" Furno asked.
"Well… It's just that I have an idea." I said
"Well what is it? We can all go together." Furno said.
"No, no. I think it would be better if me and Surge did this alone. More people would attract more attention."
"He has a point, Furno." Breez said, "Six people at one place would attract a lot of attention. Especially if they're Heroes."
"You're right. We'll let you follow your lead, but keep in contact, and keep your GPS on."
"But, the frequency could get intercepted! Unless, we use Sequential Frequency Hopper mode on our Hero Pads!"
"That idea's so crazy, it just might work!" Furno said, "But, how do we know if it's synced?
"Hmm… We slave circuit it. When someone presses go, the other would go too."
"But, the villains might find a pattern in it, and might try to intercept them using the same pattern."
"Simple: We just set it to random."
"What if they try to jam us?"
"They can only jam one frequency at a time. And cycling through over a thousand frequencies would also make the jammer to overload if it tries to jam everything."
"What if they-" Furno started.
"If they have their hands on a mass jammer, then we'd be in trouble. But I doubt they'd use it, as they don't want to jam their own frequencies, nor do they want to jam the cell phone frequencies. If they did that, suspicion might arise."
"He has some very good points, Furno. Surely you can see that." Breez said.
"Alright, you can carry out your plan. But keep in contact." Furno said.
"That was our plan all along. Well, not really, but now it is." I said.
Furno chuckled. "Okay, I'll slave circuit the Hero Pads, to get the SFH going."
Furno got that all ready, the signal was strong at some points, weak at others, but it was working. Me and Surge walked to another landing platform, and I jetted underneath to inspect the repulsorlifts.
I'm not gonna do that for recreation, ever.
"It looks like there's a cable that runs under the road." I said to Surge, "Looks like it could be cut with a laser, or a fusion cutter of some sort."
I jetted back on to firm ground.
"We should do a comparison." I said, and we jetted back to where the landing platform used to be.
When we got there, I jetted to where the cable would come out. The edges were melted, and the wires were sparking.
"Yup, I'd say a laser. But I've been wrong before." I said.
"Who do you think did it?"
"Well, a lot of villains have lasers, but I'd say XT4."
A shadow went across Surge's face at the mention of XT4.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"What? What's up with the name?"
"It's probably nothing. How do you know about XT4?"
"I saw him in the villain database. I do my research."
"But why XT4?" Surge asked.
"Because, not all the villains have access to industrial lasers, that cut is very well done. But I'm not sure it is him though."
"I'm gonna contact Furno." Surge said.
"Sure." I replied.
"Furno! There's trouble: XT4 is here!"
"I heard that!" I shouted, "I said he might be here."
"Alright, Surge, switch it to speaker phone. Why do you reckon XT4, Darklite?" Furno's voice asked through the comm-link, wavering as the signal was switching.
"Because the cut is smooth and precise, with only a few of bits of melted metal scattered here and there. It looks like an industrial laser."
"You might be on to something, Darklite." Furno said, "Those are some good observations."
"Why, thank you, Furno." I said, "This is a shadow of your former self. Well at least for today."
"You're welcome. And I'm sorry for venting my stress on you guys."
"It's okay. Happens to the best of us."
"Yup, sure does. Even Darklite does it." Surge said.
"Yeah, I have a few… Anger management issues. But I try to control myself." I said, "But, if an industrial laser can be easily identified, why didn't XT4 use his buzz saw?"
"I can answer that one, because it would've made too much noise." Surge answered.
I snapped my fingers, "Exactly! They wanted to be covert in our demise, so they used the laser instead. But that's a problem. Because industrial lasers are very specific in the way they cut. So it could be easily identified. And which villain, or rather, which lackey, has an industrial laser?"
They said in unison.
"Correct, you all get extra credit." I said, they all laughed.
"But seriously. If XT4 is here, who's commanding him? He can't do this all by himself."
"Well… Have you heard of Core Hunter?" Furno asked.
"Who?" I asked.
"Didn't think so."
"WHO IS CORE HUNTER?!" I said, getting frustrated.
"He's a Hero that went rouge." Surge said.
"Oh, like Von Ness?"
"No! Nothing like Von Ness! He hunts down Heroes, and removes their core. It's terrible. He has his own collection. Not sure why, though." Furno said.
"Maybe he wants revenge?" I suggested.
"Why would he want revenge? This is a good cause to fight for: The safety of the universe." Surge said.
"Indeed." I said, "So then, XT4 is his lackey?"
"That's right. That's why I was concerned when you said his name."
"Oh! I get it now!" I said, understanding.
"Glad you do." Furno said.
"One more question, why were you so stressed, Furno?"
"I wanted to get Stormer back safely, I owe him a favor."
"He saved your skin, you save his. Then you'll be even."
"Exactly, he's been talking to me like I was still a rookie ever since. I wanted to prove something to him."
"Ah. I understand completely."
"Well you two better start looking for Core Hunter. We'll see you later." I said.
"Alright, I think we'll contact the others too. We might have a better chance if we do this with more than one Hero. Why don't you come?" Furno said.
"I want to investigate a bit more, if it's all the same to you."
"Okay, see ya, Darklite."
"See ya later, Furno." I said.
Surge didn't move.
"Aren't you gonna go with Furno?" I asked.
"Nah, I thought I'd hang out with you." He said.
"Wow! O-okay, sure, you can." I said, surprised, "Honestly, I thought you'd want to help the others."
"Yeah, I thought about it, but I thought I'd stay with you. You're cool, Darklite."
"Well, thank you, Surge. That means a lot to me." I said.
"You're welcome, Darklite. I figured we'd be good friends."
"I think so too. I feel wanted now."
"Well, why didn't you before? I mean, the more Heroes the better."
"Well, I feel wanted amongst the other Heroes, I mean."
"Oh, I get it. So you felt a little lonely?"
"Well, yeah. Considering I'm the social type, it's a pretty lonely life, if others don't want to be your friend."
"I'll tell you this, Darklite. I've never known, let alone be friends with an 0.5 Hero."
"Well, what about the ones who got upgraded as the years went by, and the versions got better? I mean, I hear Thresher was an 0.5 at some point."
"That doesn't count." Surge said, smiling.
"Oh, it doesn't, doesn't it?" I said, playfully.
"Nope, it doesn't!"
We laughed, and joked for a while. Then we chatted about previous missions, and close calls.
"Once, while I was fighting Splitface on Sigma-Sigma, he blasted a meteor I was standing on. I thought I'd fly out into space!"
"You caught him in the end, right?"
"Yup! Of course I did."
"Well, my close call was on my first successful mission. There was a prison break in Penitentiary 1331, and the escapee almost managed to evade me. But I caught him in the end."
He then told me about his deepest, darkest secret.
"I think I've been made with a flaw." He started.
"What might that be?" I asked, "This sounds interesting.
"I think… This flaw will make me turn to the side of evil!"
I gasped, "Does anyone know about this?"
"Furno, Zib and Breez do. Zib tells me it's nothing to worry about, because he detected no such flaw, but I'm still not convinced."
"Are you afraid about that?"
"You bet! Sometimes I have nightmares of me sitting next to Von Nebula, clad in a black version of my 1.0 armor."
"Yikes! That must be terrible."
"Yeah they sure were. They've been gone since, but I'm afraid they'll pop up again."
"Listen, I'll be here for you. I promise, I'll do anything in my power to prevent it. I swear," I put my hand on my Core, "If my Core still glows, I will prevent it. Short of… well…"
"Taking me down?"
"Yeah, I couldn't do that if even I wanted to."
"Even if you were a villain?"
I had to think about that for a few moments.
"No… I say that because I will not become a villain."
"How do you know?"
"I'll be so busy trying to prevent you from becoming one, that I won't have enough time!" I joked.
We all laughed, and we started light heartedly chatting away.
It was about 6:32, Trantor time, when we realized something.
"Did you get any messages from Furno?" I asked.
"No, I haven't. Why?"
"Surely they must've round up the villains by now."
"Maybe they've been delayed." Surge suggested.
"Yeah maybe… Or worse! I'll try to contact him."
I clicked Furno's icon on the Hero Pad. I tried to contact him, but there was no response.
"Something's wrong." I said.
"How do you know they're not in a delicate situation?"
"I don't, but…"
"What is it?"
"The GPS Signals! The Sequential Frequency Hopper! I think I can locate Furno's Hero Pad!" I managed to get a lock on the GPS position, "There it is! Come on!"
Authors note: Just to clarify, I pronounce 0.5 and 1.0, 2.0 etc, as oh point five, and one point oh, two point oh, etc.