Price Blue Steel, Chapter 11

If I put this off any longer, I’m going to feel like a creep. I aimed the stun weapon at Lynx, pulled the trigger, and holstered the weapon in one of the hidden compartments in the armor system.

“Wha? Shit!” She was awake before I could get my hand out of the compartment.

She rolled to her feet, the black smoke of her power completed her costume before she hit a crouching stance with her gun in hand and pointed at me. Damn she’s fast. “Back off, asshole!”

“First, we both know that weapon won’t work.” I think. We still weren’t certain where she hid her weapons, so it could in theory have been a different gun than the one she tried before.

I held my hands out, nonetheless. “Second, if I wanted to hurt you, I had plenty of time to do it while you were unconscious. Uh, sorry about that by the way.”

She didn’t relax, but she took the time to glance around the room. “Where are we? Is this your house? Did you bring me home with you?” Fear and suspicion blended with sheer incredulity. I couldn’t say I blamed her; being beaten unconscious only to wake up in a stranger’s bedroom wasn’t my idea of a good time, either.

“Foreclosed property on the edge of town.” We picked it in part for its isolation, but mostly for the metal shed in the back yard. “Mind giving me a minute to explain myself before you add burglary to the B&E, infiltration, assault, evading arrest and whatever else you’re planning to charge me with? I just took you to a healer to get your injuries checked out.”

She took one hand off the gun to rub her face and jaw. “You… you healed me? You touched me. How!?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” We still didn’t know the full extent of her powers; if she was a Truthsayer, I couldn’t risk giving away information. Which meant the safest way to not give away information was to refuse to say anything of value, truth or otherwise.

“What about my communicator? You changed my clothes?” Black shadows flared up around her, reaching out toward me. “Where’s my sword? How did you take my sword?!”

This isn’t going well. I have to come up with something that calms her down. <Sorry, I’m trying to keep as many secrets as I can, but I need to tell her something or everything goes south.>

<I understand,> Patil answered. <Just do your best.>

Nicest boss I’ve ever had. <Affirmative.> Maybe I should take Phoebe’s advice; if only to get her to cooperate. Not that I would; professionalism aside, Phoebe’s assumptions didn’t account for the fact that people were watching almost everything I did with Lynx from inside my head.

“I called in a favor and brought you to a healer. A female healer, if that makes you feel better. She decided to take you out of your sewage covered clothes.” Healers are generally Gifters, and Phoebe is considered a Gifter, and she did heal Lynx. It’s roundabout, but it counts. “As for the rest? Well, I think the communicator might still be in the sewer, and you left your sword inside me. Real bitch to remove, by the way.”

“You…” she hesitated, if only for a moment. “Why did you bring me here? Heal me?”

“I owed you. If… if you had struck to kill, I wouldn’t be here right now. It left you vulnerable, and I…” I took advantage of you. “I didn’t mean to do that kind of damage, I didn’t think my power nullification was good enough to really hurt you.” A lie; I didn’t so much as stop to think about her wellbeing until she was down. “After? Well, I couldn’t leave you to die, could I?”

Her fingers clawed through the shadows, as if searching for something invisible. “I’ve dealt with power nullifiers before, they don’t work on me. No one’s ever been able to get close enough to touch me before.” Tendrils of black smoke oozed toward me, only to vanish into nothing on contacting my armor. “You can actually hurt the Lynx. And you got me here without getting caught. How many powers do you have? No, you had help enough to get a healer. Who?”

One power from the bargain bin. <Can I get you to do some research on lynxes that might help me, here?>

<I can look, but I doubt there’s anything useful,> Abernathy answered.

<Thanks.> “Trust me, you would not believe me if I told you.”

The black mist retreated back to Lynx. The black shadow now kept her features entirely obscured; even the scanner tech was having trouble locking onto her. “Yeah, that’s bullshit. Try the truth.”

<Her stealth powers obscure my scanning equipment. I suspect they work on other powers as well.> Jesus Christ, how absurd can one power be? “Okay, I wouldn’t tell you even if you’d believe me. Is that better? If it makes you feel any better, I can’t do mind control.”

Though given Phoebe’s abilities and the sheer number of Gadgeteers available to Artemis, I wouldn’t be surprised if mind control could be arranged.

“More honest, at least.” With her power as thick around her as it was now, her voice sounded hollow and inhuman. “What were you doing at the hospital?”

“Investigating. I didn’t expect to walk into someone’s trap.” Namely because our employer us should have warned us. “I presume you were expecting whomever mind controlled Vine to come back, either to reclaim or silence her. You set yourself up as bait. This suggests you’re immune to mind control?”

“Not quite immunity. It’s been tried before, and the Lynx…” Lynx turned to look out the window. Her next words, I only heard thanks to my enhancements. “They had to identify her by the serial numbers on her breast implants.”

<She refers to her power as ‘the Lynx’. Third person. Connection? Attempting to coax more details.> “It’s not your fault. A lot of people get powers like yours.” <Also, I thought your computers said she has no black marks. There’s no way she could have dissolved someone without it being recorded.>

“I don’t have powers.” The words bordered on a snarl. She was angrier now than before, when she was wondering what I may have done to her while she was unconscious. She looked ready to attack me, but thought better of it. “I have a family curse.”

<We’re still looking,> Abernathy’s voice entered my head. <One incident in Ontario fourteen years ago fits the basic description, including the implants. Well before the start of Lynx’s career.>

<Wouldn’t be the first Imbued to change identities.>

<Or she was new to her powers, a juvenile. Fits her current mentality,> Patil said. <If I were to hazard an early diagnosis, she’s got a form of dissociative identity disorder. She’s personified her darker impulses into this ‘Lynx’, a secondary being that controls her powers. She has control over it, but not so much that it can’t break free when necessary. A coping mechanism to absolve her from responsibility. Whatever you do, don’t challenge her belief. She wants to talk about it, encourage her.>

I sighed, looking out the same window. Note to self: ask Phoebe where she got her degree, then ask if they do psychology. “Want to talk about it?” I took a couple steps closer. “I’ve seen my fair share of family curses.”

The black shadows which made up the bulk of her costume reached toward me, only to draw back again. I was at maximum power, so the spare power went to generating calories for the endosymbiotes. In theory, if I had enough spare energy I never had to eat. In practice, I would still feel like I was starving.

“You think I’m insane.” There was no accusation in Lynx’s voice, just resignation.

“I think you’d have to be crazy to be sane in this world. Besides, you did start a fight with an unknown superhuman in a sewer.” I decided against pressing on the subject of Lynx’s neurosis; much like with Phoebe, my solution was avoidance. “Can’t imagine your boss sanctioned that move.”

She turned her head toward me, then stood up on the bed. She was not a tall woman, and still had plenty of clearance. In fact, our eyes were on the same level now. “What is your angle, anyway? You’ve done the whole ‘saving’ part. Why didn’t you run? What do you want?”

“I’m investigating. It’s what I do.” In part. “I was hired to find out the real story with Vine. Sure, things aren’t going according to plan, but that’s no excuse to just quit the job.” The part where the client stabbed us in the back is, and that’s why I have to stay.

“Is that your angle?” Black smoke swirled around us, again trying to find its way into attacking me. Like a thousand tiny shadow wolves, they flanked around me seeking vulnerabilities. “Manipulate me into helping you? Well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”

“I was hoping you’d recognize we’re on the same side.” One step closer to her; whether conscious or otherwise, she was trying her best to intimidate me. It was a battle of dominance, and I had to show I wasn’t going to back down. “I don’t know Vine, but what happened to her means a powerful Imbued is involved. Would you rather fight that alone, or have an ally you can trust on the field.”

“Or you’re playing a weird double-agent game.”

Crap, I’m losing her. “Or, I’m playing a weird double agent game. There’s nothing I can do to prove otherwise.” Especially since I am a double agent, just for a different organization. “So let’s put it this way: I intend to keep investigating and find out what happened here.” Then shoot someone in the face for the trouble. “I would like your help, but I’m not stopping either way.”

“Your face and powers are known by half of Vancouver by now,” Lynx said. “If you think throwing on some new costume is going to fool anyone, then you not equipped to solve a crossword, let alone-”

To answer her point, I activated the stealth protocol. I fought down the urge to shudder in disgust as the endosyms shifted about. It felt similar to when my friends would dare each other to let banana slugs crawl on our faces, only this time there were hundreds of them and they were beneath my skin.

Melanin was added to my skin and eyes, changing both to a deep chocolate brown. My lips, nose and ears puffed out, changing not just the color but the actual shape of my face. The forcefield system curled my hair in on itself and added a reasonable amount of grey. In a matter of five seconds, I’d gone from looking vaguely Hispanic or Mediterranean to indisputably black.

Despite the literal crawling sensation, I forced myself to smile. All the default forms in the current library were handsome men, without a single ugly face to choose from. A flaw I’d already requested they fix, but one which had its advantages; people liked to imagine they weren’t so shallow, but attractive people were simply treated better. “You were saying?”

“How many powers do you have?!” This time, Lynx didn’t bother to hide her incredulity. “Nevermind. I won’t believe you if you tell me, right?”

“Something like that. Suffice it to say that I’ve already revealed more than I should.” There was no disputing that detail. “I’m putting a lot of trust in you, which you could use against me if you wanted.”

“And you’re trusting me, why?”

Guilt. “Same reason I got you to a healer. You could have killed me, if you tried.” Sword to the back of the head while I was gummed up in that web, as an example. “You didn’t, even though you thought I was an enemy. Now, I’d like us to help each other. I don’t want to hurt you, or Vine, or anyone other than maybe the asshole who controlled her. I don’t need your help, but it would be much simpler. For both of us.”

She hesitated, her eyes suspicious. “I don’t trust you, but I suppose it’s easier to keep you where I can see you, rather than let you escape and turn into anyone you want to. I don’t need that kind of paranoia on top of the rest of this case.”

“Good enough for me.” I reached out my hand toward her.

She looked at me for a moment, more confused than anything.

“It’s called a handshake. It’s what people traditionally do after agreeing to-”

“I know what a handshake is.”

She hesitated for a moment before reaching out. Her hand was trembling when her fingers touched mine. The black smoke surged forward like some hybrid of angry serpent and tidal wave, only to break to pieces once in contact with my hand. Minor numbness radiated up to my elbow, as what was left of the shadow recoiled back, revealing Lynx’s arm up to the shoulder.

She drew her hand away, then reached out to grasp mine, squeezing hard. I gave her hand a gentle squeeze in return. She kept her hand in mine, long after the appropriate time for a handshake had passed. After thirty seconds, I decided I needed to say something, but I needed something that wouldn’t insult her. She hates her power, sees it as an outside entity. “I don’t think the Lynx likes me very much.”

“No,” Lynx said. She reluctantly slid her hand out of mine. “It doesn’t like anyone.”

Next

 

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12 thoughts on “Price Blue Steel, Chapter 11

  1. A/N… Not everyone who gets Infiltrator powers thinks “boobies!”, but some do. And, statistically, those types of people are more likely to get mind control than any other type of powers.

    My spellchecker thinks would’t is a word. I don’t get it, either.

    ….

    Alt scene that isn’t canon, but I can’t help but picture:

    Warren: “Umm… why are all these disguises really good looking men?”

    Patil: “Well, there’s no way for us to change you enough to create passable female forms. The bone structure alone…”

    Warren: “I get that part, but the whole point of spy work is to not get noticed. These all look like movie stars. This one’s even labeled ‘Hugh plus Leo’ and that one’s ‘Beefy Will Smith’.”

    Patil: “Uh, well, I didn’t do that part of the project.”

    Warren: “Then who did?”

    Patil: “Miss Reed said… oh…”

    Phoebe: *looks down* “A girl has needs, you know.”

    ….

    You people should feel sorry for those readers of mine who don’t read the commentary. For those who do read my commentary: enjoy your bonus laugh. Also, vote for me and point out my typos.

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=price

    Like

  2. Typos:
    She rolled to her feet, the black smoke of her power completed her costume before she hit a crouching stance, her gun in hand and pointed at me. -> 2 independent clauses separated by comma -> She rolled to her feet, the black smoke of her power completing her costume before she hit a crouching stance with her gun in hand and pointed at me.
    Namely because the our employer us should have warned us. -> Name because our employer should have warned us.
    much like Phoebe, my solution was avoidance. -> much like with Phoebe (or something similar)

    “Okay, I called in a favor and brought you to a healer. -> There doesn’t seem to be a reason for him to be saying “okay” here. Just a suggestion.

    Another great chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Namely’ is actually correct. It’s a synonym for “specifically”. Warren’s inner voice is a little less formal than his spoken words.

      Thanks for the typos and support.

      Like

  3. Another tear-jerker. Lynx hasn’t been able to touch anyone since she was thirteen??! I choked up a little when they shook hands :'(

    I’ve been thinking, and it really looks like Warren’s better off than every other protagonist so far. He has a low-level power, so his price probably wasn’t too bad. Despite that, it’s non-intrusive and one of the best to help overall quality-of-life. It looks like he left the army relatively unscathed, and then he (kind of) achieved his dream of becoming an astronaut. Then he gets a ridiculously powerful, versatile powerset without even having to surge, and is able to serve his country and protect people. The other shoe’s gotta drop soon, right? We’ll learn about his survivor’s guilt, PTSD, regrets about some past event, right? We’re already seeing hints of something, and I don’t trust the Priceverse with a happy, well-adjusted character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. Lynx was part of why I knew Blue Steel had to come next. That and it had been long enough without really exploring the whole world, and this book was the one that could show that world in a way no other could.

      Personally, I still like Domenic and Chloe as main characters. Especially Domenic, who’s level headed without being burned out and utterly cynical the way Warren is about a lot of things. Chloe, who has ideals to strive for.

      Well… being turned into government property may not be a Surge, but it is still a Price. And… I can’t say “soon”, per se, but you’ll learn more about Warren’s past eventually.

      Like

  4. I have to say, new reader and commenter here, I just finished reading everything you have to offer.
    (Except the interlewds that I’m gonna stay the heck away from.)

    I liked the first story, it was a good introduction to the universe, even if I think he should have had a bit more consequences in exchange for his powers, and should have been a bit more upset over his blown identity problem. But I figure it’s more of a long term, subtle problem, since he’ll have to always endure stalkers, fan girls, paparazzi, and so on for the rest of his life, so in time he should come to bitterly regret it as it disrupts most ordinary things he tries to do.

    But I think the gal, Anima was my fav of the two, even if she got so little screen time. She seemed cool, competent, and like she was really struggling with coming to terms with her powers consequences.

    Second story was not as entertaining due to the lack of humor, but it was still good. Just less funny is all. I liked Dom the best by far, I tend to prefer sensible characters, and his awareness of himself was a nice breath of fresh air.
    Honestly, I dislike Chlo, and especially don’t like that she was too weak to kill the pairbonded evil chick at the end. She talked big about convistions and doing the right thing no matter how much it hurt her, but in the end she failed to live up to her ideals, as dumb as they were.

    I suppose it might simply be impossible for them to do it because of the bond, but still, I don’t like it. The Hunter (Or Killer?) gal had better do a complete180 and make up for what she’s done, and really work hard at making things better to pay the world back for what she’s done. :P

    Anyways, this last story, blue steel, I think I’m liking the best of them all. I like how you can have the mentally ill manic pixie dream girl bio tinker gal point out all the usual tropes and what would happen in most normal narrative story arcs. And it will be interesting to see how you use that in the future. Will you subvert the tropes that she lampshades? Will you use them as part of the plot, but with a twist that poor Reed never sees coming?

    I like that she is so completely clueless about normal interactions, basically acting like a small child who is trying to pretend to be an adult. It seems like she has been kinda mentally locked into that stage, and I’m glad that you made Warren realize that, and not be attracted to it at all. I think it would be incredibly wrong for him to take advantage of her mental illness, especially as she is mostly a child in mentality.

    I’m personally hoping it kind of turns out to be more of a mentor/father figure type relationship in the end, with her realizing that maybe she got the type of ‘story’ all wrong. :P

    But Warren is competent, cynical, and badass from the get go, I like it. This will possibly be my fav story of them all, depending on how it goes. :)

    So good job on this one. I imagine there will be many missions in exotics locations around the world, and he’ll have to deal with so many different problems, each with their own way to solve it. Some will be easy, some will be FUBARed from the start like this first one.

    It will be interesting to see how it turns out, with him always focusing on the job, and resigned to his inevitable death, plus the manic pixi gal failing to get anywhere and either changing her strategy, or having a breakdown, or they have to deal with or something else interesting she ends up causing.

    I look forward to more chapters of this story, and I hope that this one will be at least as long as your first story, if not longer. The Dom story was too short!

    See the nice thing about infinite scrolling webpages is that you don’t have to pay per page like you would if you were publishing a paper book. so no size limits. Some of my fav books are the big ones, and the online ones that get unreasonably huge. One of my fav published books is literally over a thousand pages long. I think I’m not alone in expecting greater lengths from online webserials. :P

    So I hope you like my review, I don’t plan on reviewing again, only quietly reading and enjoying from now on.

    The only thing I kinda want to know, and could not find in the about page or anywhere, is how often do you update this story? How frequent are new chapters? I want to know how often I should check this link to see if there is more to read.
    (Also, you should maybe think about having one page that people can bookmark, that always has the latest chapter on it. Right now I’m bookmarking the table of contents, but it would be nice to have a page that automatically updates to put the newest post on top, so i don’t have to go hunting for if there’s have been some changes. I know most other webserials I read does this, and its incredibly convenient so you should think about it being a thing?)

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