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Fate Won't Guide The Way

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Charles had mixed feelings about... well, everything.

He had been stationed at the same base for a week. That itself wasn't unusual, no, it was the reason why he was staying. Since Henry had taken interest in him twice now he was officially the best lead for the investigation.

Why the Toppat Leader was so intent on him in particular when they exchanged a few words before the thief was blasted off into the airship was beyond the pilot. It didn't make sense. Not that the guy made much sense to begin with. He had used a giant super bouncy ball as a distraction in a museum and it worked.

Yeah, the museum heist had made the news. Officials couldn't figure out what was stolen beyond one gem, but clip of Henry running off the third floor had gone viral. The fact the thief managed to still escape after a fall like that was ridiculous. There had to be more to it than that.

There had.

The broadcast happened two days after the heist. Henry had been wearing a bandage, so he hadn't escape unharmed. Like before they gone over what they did, the gang they took down, list of crimes, and an even more impressive list of bribed officials.

Charles wondered if the gang had a dedicated group to take them down like the Toppats had Galeforce. If they did it would be classified information and he wasn't in the need-to-know category. They had been.... worse and he hoped they did.

He also was on edge. That broadcast happened last week and there was... nothing. No note, no late night visit, no... nothing. To make things easier he was grounded and stationary, if Galeforce wanted him to get information there had to be contact first. Maybe it was too easy, maybe it felt like a trap?

He was stationed in the furthest barracks on the third floor. He had a window facing the fence. The light was conveniently out leaving the side of the building in darkness during the night. It couldn't be any easier to sneak in and have... access to him. Being used as bait was not something Charles was sure he liked.

He may be erring on the side of paranoia, but a whole week had gone by with nothing!

The pilot was allowed some research into the Toppat clan so he could sift through any unintentional given information. He recognized some faces from previous missions, but the gang was big. They had operated in a giant airship flying around without fear because nothing would stick to them.

He was bored. He missed flying. He found himself hating walking around after dark.

So he didn't.


Charles was sprawled on his bed scrolling through his phone surfing the internet. With the second successful strike complete the public was paying attention to them. The internet was interneting over them and the pilot didn't know what to make of it. They were bad people with sordid histories.

They were doing good.

Mixed feelings.

Charles groaned when he heard a knock. Maybe that was the order he'd be shipping out tomorrow. Sitting around with nothing to do but wait was not something a man of action did!

Turning his phone off he went and opened the door. No one was there, nor was there anyone in the hallway. Narrowing his eyes the pilot looked up the the ceiling just in case. Everything was clear.

Knock knock.

...but he was at the door and no was there. Why did it sound like the knocking came from behind him?

Charles scratched his head and stared at his bed. No, he'd been sitting on his bed for over an hour. If someone was under there he was never going to sleep again without checking.

No one was under his bed, thank all aviation advancements.

Knock knock.

He had no vents or holes in his ceilings, his floor was intact so... where was it coming from?

Charles climbed on his bed and threw open the window to look down at the ground he could see. The moon was pretty full so he could kind of see down there and-

Knock knock.

That sounded awfully close.

Charles looked to the left and blinked. He sighed and rested his elbow on the window sill so he could prop his head on his hand. What was his life now where he wasn't even going to question finding a world class criminal just... was he sitting on sticks coming out of the building? What?

Henry uncurled his fist to wave cheerfully. Just another day in the life of a world class criminal making history.

"Are those plungers?" The pilot squinted closer at the three sticks. What possessed the thief to trust his life to a common household accessory? He was just... sitting on one, with his feet resting on another and his arms thrown over a third.

Nodding the Toppat reached behind and pulled out another. Unremarkable looking but extremely useful tool to have on hand. Offering it over he watched the pilot take it with a confused look.

Bemused Charles rested it near his bed. Maybe it could be evidence? "Trying to win me over again?" It was hard to take the other seriously when he was sitting on plungers precariously on the third floor.

Just a little to far out of his reach or he could have tried to bring inthe thief himself.

Henry nodded. The plan was rolling along better than expected.

"Why?" Charles needed to know why he'd been singled out. Sure was was an incredibly talented guy, heart of gold, great role model, and stuff... yeah.

Henry made a face. He couldn't really explain it logically but he had to answer something. "Best pilot, I think you'd be an asset with us. More fun." Holding his chin deep in thought the thief sighed. "Don't trust the government to look out for you either."

"There is a robust system in place for veterans." The pilot straightened his back affronted. "Among other things."

The Toppat made a frustrated noise and tapped his fingers on the plunger handle in front of him. That's not what he meant. Looking up at the other he made sure he had good eye contact before speaking again, "Systems aren't perfect. People get lost. Government is big, it's all numbers at the top."

This was an argument he couldn't win, he could tell from the grim expression the pilot wore. Time to change subjects to something more agreeable. "But what did you think of the latest strike?"

Charles narrowed his eyes as the conversation shifted. He would allow it, arguing about his place of employment wasn't going to get him any valuable information. "...they seemed like a nasty piece of work."

The pilot continued, "But I don't understand why the museum, there were higher value displays."

"Cutpurser storage, should finish investigation soon." Henry shrugged and leaned forward again.

"What?" Museums weren't dens of thievery! They were built to ward off thieves which... would maybe make it a good place to keep things. Huh. That was double down sneaky line of thought right there.

"Are there more like that?" The pilot didn't want that to be a common thing. He liked visiting museums, they were filled with neat things. Some carried a large range, some were small and specialized, and some were just so out there.

"No, but they're good at scattering. They'll survive and rebuild." The thief snorted. He expected them to be back up in a year, unlike the Neckerthieves who would take several if they survived the fallout.

"What group are you going to go after next?" Charles leaned out the window

"Not sure yet." Henry lazily smiled. He had no clue honestly.

The pilot fell to silence as he racked his brain. Alas he hoped to get that so a large trap could be laid out but... the thief must know that. He was still going to be looking at museums funny for awhile too. And he hadn't really learned anything yet. He was a man of action not subterfuge - well except when the call to action was sneakily ferrying in but that was not the same thing here!

"Are we doing good?" The Toppat let a grin sneak onto his face.

"Ah, it's... morally grey - I... I don't... yeah." In the grand scheme of things Cutpursers had been a bad group, worse than the Toppats. With the whole donating ill gotten money to non profit only charities and uncovering corruption it was like a... vigilante.

The grin veered into smug as Henry reached behind his back to plop a plunger above his head. It was a good enough for him. Carefully standing up he started to climb back up the way he came.

Charles sat and watched, so there were more plungers. He had a... plunger ladder to his room from the roof. The thief must have removed a couple to hide the rest and the pilot hadn't checked up. It was ridiculous yet effective.

A minute after the Toppat's foot disappeared over the roof he watched a figure leap off the roof. His heart stopped a moment before he saw the thief glide towards the fence, gracefully rising just enough to make it over and fade into the distant night.

Wings on his arms, that was... pretty cool. The pilot had stars in his eyes as he imagined what it would be like - not quite flying but a close experience. More hands on? He did love his helicopter and it would be the best forever but trying a new thing here and there was good.

Sitting back in his room his gaze was drawn to the plunger. Actually, maybe if he had used it like the other he could have reached Henry. It hadn't even occurred to him and the thief had just handed it over.

Leaving the window open Charles laid back down. He wish he had a recorder, that would have made things easier.

Yeah, they were doing good, but that didn't erase all the bad things they needed to be brought to justice for. There were always worse people in the world, that doesn't mean lesser crimes could be ignored. On the other hand vigilantes worked in a grey area where the law couldn't sometimes. Like comic book heroes - which he was not calling Toppats that. No, this was just an example he was thinking to make sense.

The other gangs had been worse. So in the end it was the lesser of the two evils winning - still bad just not as bad and-

Oh he was going to get a headache from morally debating with himself. Mixed feelings. He had mixed feelings on the matter.

That whole tangent about systems and government was...

Sitting up he shut the window and picked up a pad of paper nearby so he could jot down anything he learned. The best he had was about the Cutpursers, that information could be passed along to the group trying to take them down. There had to be a dedicated group since they were so bad, right?