"That's one hell of a traffic jam," Ty O'Neill said with his understated humor, staring down the hill at the overpass for the Hollywood Freeway with the rest of them.
Both sides of the overpass were clogged with automobiles. Cars and trucks stacked on top of each other and wedged beneath the concrete bridge on both the inbound and outbound lanes. St. George could make out a bright green cab, an LAPD squad car, and two motorcycles in the pile. Lady Bee pulled out her binoculars from the large mailman's bag she wore. "I count at least a dozen exes," she said. "All staying down."
Luke, the former teamster who drove Big Red on their usual scavenging route, let the rig come to a stop a few blocks away, across from a gas station. He glanced up to where St. George was still floating at roughly roof-height, next to Lady Bee's perch. "You're the boss," he said with a shrug. "What's your call?"
St. George dropped to the pavement. "Safeties off, everyone," he called out. "Stay sharp until we know what's up." One leap carried him the three blocks to the roadblock. An ex lay there in a heap, a bullet hole through her forehead keeping her down for good. The hero ignored her, reaching up to grab the axle of a Civic, and tugged. He braced himself and gave another hard pull.The Civic shifted back a foot with a shriek of metal. "They're in tight!" he shouted over his shoulder before giving it up as a bad job. He walked back to the truck, noting that every ex in the area was down for good, most with gunshot wounds to the face, two to beheadings. "We got an alternate route from here, Luke?"
The driver glanced up the cross street. "We can try going up Normandie," he said. "Haven't used it anytime recently, though. It's a narrow street. If someone blocked this, they can block that, easy."
"Also seems like that's just what we'd be expected to do at this point," said Cerberus. She'd turned up the volume on her speakers and her voice echoed.
"Then we go through." St. George looked up at the armored titan. His head didn't even come up to the stars and stripes logo stenciled on her bicep. "Can you clear it?"
The steel skull turned towards the overpass. "You want it done fast or quiet?"
"Little bit of both, maybe?"
She nodded. "Give me ten minutes." Big Red trembled as she moved back to the lift gate to ride it to the ground.
It took Cerberus less than eight minute to dismantle enough of the barricade to let Big Red pass, less than eight minutes to move cars that even St. George had been unable to budge. Even so, the noise had already begun to attract attention, exes converging on the truck from three sides. "We've got about five minutes before contact, Cerberus," St. George called.
Cerberus shoved a blue Prius up onto the curb and kicked the last motorcycle away in a spray of sparks. A few blinks inside her helmet switched on the armor's night vision scopes, and she examined the shadowy underside of the freeway overpass. Some jagged, green graffiti spelled out PEASY RULES. Nothing else. Her footsteps echoed on the concrete pillars. Another set of blinks brought up the long-range lenses. She studied Melrose as far as she could see for signs of life or ex-life.
She plodded back under the bridge and into the sunlight again. "Clock's ticking!" shouted St. George from the truck. "Everything okay?" Cerberus gave him a wave and Big Red's engines started up again and the truck rolled forward. St. George waited until the truck was properly moving again to hop down from the roof to walk next to Cerberus until they reached the overpass. Cerberus was still gazing down Melrose. The titan's face looked the same way it always did, but something about the posture made St. George think the woman inside was uneasy. "Something wrong?" he asked.
Her head shook. "No. Yes. I'm not sure. Something feels wrong."
The suit swept its gaze back and forth around the overpass. "Not sure," she said, shrugging her massive soldiers.
It wasn't until later, as they were driving down Los Feliz when Lynne, the youngest person on this scavenging expedition, asked, "You guys are the only heroes left, right? I mean, you and the ones back at the Mount?" that Cerberus was able to figure out what was bothering her.
With a sinking feeling in her very real and human stomach, Dr. Danielle Morris nodded her head. The battlesuit's head nodded in time. "As far as we know, yeah," she said. "Some are dead and a few are exes."
"Were there any supervillains? You know, like in the movies?"
"Not that we know of."
"Then who stacked the cars like that?" Lynne asked.
"We think it was the South Seventeens," St. George said from his perch. "They were one of the gangs from the Koreatown area, like the XV3s. There are other survivors in LA, but they're not all quite as civic-minded as us."
"No," she said, shaking her head. "I mean, how did that do it? How'd they cram them all under the bridge. It took Cerberus to get them out again, so how'd they get them in without her?"
It was a question that would linger with Cerberus all afternoon, right up until the trap sprang.
[Take taken and adapted from Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes, Chapter Four. Prepare for a lot of these in the coming days. NFI, NFB]