Late nights at the Chronicle had become the norm since April's recent disciplining. Her normal responsibilities kept her busy all day, leaving only the nighttime to tackle the mountains of unedited articles to proofread. If April were being honest with herself, however, she actually didn't mind terribly much. Sure, copy editing was monotonous work, but at least the vacant office was free from distractions. There was an oddly serene quality about the unmanned, dimly lit bullpen. Whenever she got bored with correcting misspellings and fixing errant apostrophes -- which was quite often, admittedly -- she would get up and walk past her coworkers' desks, occasionally sneaking a peek at the scintillating exposés on which they were working.
Plus, being alone in the office gave April a prime opportunity to review the Project: Gateway documents Jefferson had unlocked for her. Unfortunately, the technician's assessment of their usefulness hadn't been far off; even after breaking the encryption, many of the files were redacted or outright missing. Still, what Jefferson had
found painted a clearer picture of what had happened to Dr. Henry Newton. The project, it turned out, involved "extradimensional tunneling," which was Zenith's fancy way of saying teleportation. Along with Daisy's father, Dr. Jeremiah Miller, Dr. Newton had built some sort of experimental gateway between dimensions. Details regarding what happened next were spotty, but April could gather that the two scientists' deaths were tied to a malfunction involving the gate.
Even if the dossier created yet more questions, April was still grateful for the few answers it did provide. Her father's death had been shrouded in so much secrecy when it happened, the details protected from public consumption in the name of Zenith Dynamics proprietary information. I was just a girl whose father left for work and didn't come home,
she mused, and no one would tell me what happened.
She knew her mother was owed an explanation, too... but better to wait until she had the complete story. Gotta nail down every angle, just like Mickey said.
April hadn't seen anything in the files to suggest that Zenith was at fault in her father's death, yet neither was there anything to absolve them. She would have to dig deeper.
The sound of approaching footsteps startled April, and she hurriedly minimized the Project: Gateway files. "I thought I was the only one burning the midnight oil around here,"
came a husky voice from across the bullpen. April looked up to see an unfamiliar woman with an asymmetrical haircut and a full sleeve tattoo. She sauntered over to April's desk. Pushing a stack of unread articles aside, she helped herself to a seat on the edge of the desk. Squinting at April, she said, "We haven't met."
April straightened in her chair and adjusted her glasses. "I'm April,"
she announced with a hand outstretched, "April Newton. I'm--""Mickey's girl, yeah,"
the woman interjected with a nod of her head in the direction of the chief editor's office. She took April's hand and gave it a casual shake. "Peyton Campbell."
April's eyes went wide with recognition. "Oh. Oh! You're Peyton Campbell?"
She had heard the name, of course, and even admired some of the work. Peyton was the Chronicle's Pulitzer-winning photojournalist; before that, she made a name for herself as a guerrilla photographer with a nose for a story. Her reputation earned her a long leash with Mickey, which partly explained why she and April had never crossed paths. Shaking the cobwebs loose, April blushed and said, "I'm sorry. I only ever heard your name, so I just assumed...""You and my father both,"
Peyton replied with a knowing smirk. "I think he would've been much happier if I had been a son, but I would've been happier if he hadn't cheated on my mother with a 24 year-old graduate student, so I guess we'll call it even."
The woman's candor stunned April, who struggled to hide her shocked expression. Fortunately, Peyton showed little interest in dwelling on the topic, as she had already turned her attention to one of the articles on the desk. "So, what's Mickey got you doing after hours?""Copy editing,"
April answered, eliciting a disgusted sneer from Peyton. She felt obliged to explain, "This is my penance for going behind Mickey's back on a story."
Peyton shifted, her body language conveying sudden interest. "Miss America's got a rebellious streak! I can dig it,"
she smiled. "Want some free advice?"
April nodded. "Mickey's one of the good ones, but don't ever forget that his job is to sell newspapers; your job is to find the story. Sometimes, that's the same thing, and sometimes it isn't."
April thought she understood. "How will I know which is which?"
she asked."If you've got what it takes, you'll know,"
Peyton assured her. Her eyes flitted away from April in the direction of the monitors mounted above the bullpen. "Oh, shit,"
she blurted out, her jaw sagging open. April immediately spun in her chair to see what was up.
A fiery scene dominated the nearest television. According to the headline at the bottom of the screen, there had been a crash involving one of Zenith Dynamics' autonomous delivery vehicles. The truck had rammed into one of the Mag-Rail's support columns, erupting in a massive fireball. Miraculously, no one had been hurt, but the Mag-Rail now threatened to collapse; worse, an adjoining report explained that the inbound train's emergency brakes had failed. In a matter of minutes, the monorail would crash unless someone found a way to stop it."I need my camera,"
Peyton said for her own benefit before scrambling off.
April felt similarly motivated to act. She had no idea what
to do, of course, but she couldn't just stay there and watch a catastrophe unfold. The accident had occurred where the train passed Liberty Park, which meant she'd never beat it there on foot. Without stopping to think, she burst for the stairwell and bound up towards the roof. Upon reaching her destination, the insanity of her plan dawned on her. She had slipped gravity's hold only once, and that had been while sleeping. If I can do it once...
Standing on the roof of the Chronicle, wind whipping around her small frame, she felt somewhat less than confident. April removed her glasses and let them tumble to the gravel beneath her feet.
Fortunately, the urgency of the situation prevented her from overthinking it. April closed her eyes and visualized her goal, just as she had done in the lab. She could feel her newfound abilities responding, the energy welling up from somewhere deep inside. It radiated out from her core, electrifying her skin. April felt her feet gently lift off the gravel. When she opened her eyes, she was hovering more than a foot above the rooftop. Gasping, she threatened to lose her balance for a moment before righting herself again. I'm flying,
she thought excitedly. No big deal. Totally normal.
There was little time to concentrate on the utter insanity of the feat. April willed herself forward -- slowly -- and her body obeyed.
Once she reached the building's ledge, she made the mistake of looking down to see the ant-like pedestrians and cars below. Fear gripped her heart, and she wobbled backwards weightlessly. But the sound of sirens ringing throughout the city urged her onward. Taking a deep breath, she centered herself. As the roar of the city dulled to a whisper, April opened her eyes and shot forward. The wind whistled past her ears as she took off like a streak. Skyscrapers raced up to meet her, and she deftly spun away from collisions without a thought; instinct took over as she focused only on the shortest path to her destination.
Eventually, the concrete jungle gave way to a sea of green as April reached Liberty Park. Orange light flickered like a beacon where the damaged section of the Mag-Rail track still burned. April's eyes followed the track up a ways until she spotted the approaching train's headlights. There was no time to waste. With arms outstretched above her head, April sliced through the air on an intercepting course, slowing only as she came up alongside the train. Ooookay, now what?
It hadn't occurred to her to formulate a plan to actually stop
the train. If it wasn't for all the people who'd get hurt, she figured she could probably just nudge it off the track.This is gonna hurt,
April winced as she realized what she must do. Darting ahead of the high-speed train, she planted herself mid-air and braced for impact. The Mag-Rail's lead car slammed into her at full force, driving all the air from her lungs. Amazingly, however, April was unharmed. So, that's what it feels like to get hit by a train,
she mused darkly. Summoning her strength, she stretched out her arms as her palms flattened against the cone-shaped nose of the train. The vehicle shuddered yet showed little sign of slowing. April snapped her head over her shoulder and tried to gauge how much track she had left. Not enough.
Gritting her teeth, April exerted as much force as she could muster. She felt the steel crumpling like aluminum foil around her hands. The green light surrounding her reflected off of the train, pulsing with urgency. The Mag-Rail began to squeal under the pressure being applied, and April felt it shuddering more violently. Sorry!
she thought on behalf of the hapless passengers. If she succeeded, however, a little jostling would be a small price to pay. April curled her fingers around the twisted metal and squeezed until her knuckles turned white. Her arms started shaking as badly as the train.
The heat at April's back warned her that they were approaching the damaged section of track. "Come on!"
she pleaded the train, lowering her shoulder into place to give herself a little more leverage. "Just stop!"
The train didn't seem responsive. April felt the full weight of the Mag-Rail fighting her for every inch. The broken track neared, and her impending failure burned beneath her skin. She braced herself for the worst. The lead car lurched forward as it dropped off the track; April fell with it...
... until she suddenly stopped. She hadn't hit the ground, nor had she been crushed under the weight of a falling train. Instead, April hung in the air halfway between the track and the earth. The lead car rested against her shoulder, its compatriots dangling above it like beads on a string. A nervous laugh overtook April, and she blurted out, "I did it!"
Shifting the weight of the train, she pushed it back while floating up until the entire Mag-Rail rested gently on the track once more. The disaster had been avoided, if only narrowly.
A raucous cheer rose up from the ground below. April turned to see a small crowd of onlookers who had witnessed her feat. For a moment, she swelled with pride, until the passing of a helicopter searchlight reminded her just how exposed she was. What if someone recognizes me?
she thought in a panic. Seeing no point in chancing it any further, she tucked herself down and darted away in the direction of the park. The helicopter attempted to track her, but she was too small and too quick. She disappeared from view and felt awash with relief.Well, April, your life's about to get a lot more complicated...