“Well, that’s quite the story.” AmusementVictory. Cecelia stood, giving her arms a stretch. “You know, work a bit of bestiality and some mind control in there and we’d have ourselves the making of an excellent opera.”
IndignationSurprise. I glanced at Chloe, who was on the verge of tears just from listening to me explain everything. I wanted to hold her so bad it hurt, but couldn’t. I forced myself to look back at Cecelia. “You don’t seem bothered by any of this.”
She tilted her head. “Am I supposed to be? All you told me is you didn’t get a choice in who your parents were. I get it, my own old man wasn’t father of the year material, either. The important part is that the scary villain gang we’ve been dismantling one piece at a time won’t retaliate. At worst, I’m disappointed that they won’t be the challenge I was hoping for, but these new challengers might have bigger teeth.”
PainIncredulityHope. “Y-you think we can take them?” I could feel Chloe pulling away from her own pain, both emotional and physical, to focus on the chance for better. I decided that tonight I would stay with them, to watch out for Chloe’s health. Defibrillation was not something one shrugged off, though I suspected Cecelia’s version was less harmful than the mechanical option.
“Well, yeah,” Cecelia said. “I knew that even before finding out Fate has ordained you beat them.”
ConcernCaution. Chloe looked at me, and I tried to calm her with my own emotions. “Fate is just another excuse, nothing more. Success comes from hard work and talent, not some vague mystical notion of predestination.” Says the guy who has what may as well be magic powers. I looked back at Cecelia. “Still, what makes you think we’re so capable of beating Heritage? Even in this fight, Plasma almost…” died.
DismissalAnnoyance. “She got hurt after rushing in to an unknown situation and getting ambushed by two powerful enemies. This isn’t some shitty show or game where you escalate to scarier threats every new plot arc. In the real world, scouts are your elite forces. They’re the strongest, best trained, scariest fuckers their organizations have, and we could have destroyed them with a bit of planning.”
She has a point. If our tactics were better, we could have gotten through this without any of us getting hurt. “I thought you said on the roof that they weren’t strong if they need guns.”
“Compared to us? They’re not.” ConfidenceReady. “And who does Heritage have that’s a challenge to us? Salamander’s a distraction at best. Myriad can slow one of us down for about ten seconds. Quash counters me, but either of you won’t have much trouble, and all I need is a Molotov and some idea how far up his power reaches. We can’t catch Echo, but she can’t hurt us, and neither can Saw. Parapet’s defensive only, and all Survivalist does is teach people weapons which mean nothing to us. They don’t even have a Gadgeteer to catch us by surprise. I might be scared of Stonewall, without our Pairbond boosts. Toss in a couple Espers, and you have yourself a whole lot of nothing.”
UnderstandingAcceptance. If nothing else, Cecelia made Chloe feel better. “Okay, so that’s a few good points, but I’m still not convinced.” Sorry, Chloe, but we’ve long established I’m the voice of caution in this group.
“I was wondering how Heritage could be as successful as they were,” she continued. “Given most of them are only upper-mid tier who get by on reputation and populist support rather than any real firepower. Having a billionaire backer and a fate-controlling mole in the police explains how they got to where they are now. Thanks to Starfall, they got to enjoy being big fish in a small pond for a long time, but the floodgates are open now.”
I looked around at the carnage in their wake. Four men dead on their side, six on the other including one Imbued. “Floodgates is one way to describe what happened tonight.”
“This is them throwing everything they had into one battle against an unestablished group of outsiders, and they only survived because we did the hard part.” HateGuiltFailure. Cecelia hesitated for a moment. “Once we found the right targets we were able to take both teams at the same time. And if we didn’t show, Heritage would have lost. Or at least broke even until this,” Cecelia held up the blue sword for emphasis. “Wound up in Quash. Queen’s off the board, why fight the knights and pawns when you can remove the king?”
PainLossRegret. I cringed, but what could I say to comfort Chloe? For all his faults, she still loved her dad, and near as I could tell he’d been nothing but a good father to her. It was his crimes to everyone else that he had to answer for.
“We won’t be doing any king removal.” As much as it goes against every part of me to say it. “But we’re going to keep hitting their organization by any legal means we can. We’ll do the same for the opportunists. Going after families is not an option.” It’s the only thing keeping Nanna and Beatrice safe.
AggressionDisappointment ReliefSupport FearAcceptance. Without saying a word, Cecelia moved forward and put her arms around Chloe. SurpriseConfusionComfort. I was more than a little confused, myself.
Before anyone could say anything, however, a feminine voice rang out. “This is the police! Stay where you are!”
I turned toward the ramp, presuming it was the best spot to locate newcomers, but all that accomplished was to remind me that it was night and Chloe was now the only source of light in the building. A familiar shimmering orange mist worked its way down through the ceiling.
“Hello, Eldritch.” As I spoke, she spun around to take in the scene, a whirl of light in the dark. “You can call the others in, we think the building’s clear.” Cecelia’s power was convinced we were more or less alone, and my power agreed in as much as it could.
She turned back to us. “What happened here?” While she had no physical body to speak of, Eldritch’s body language seemed to remain much like a normal person’s. What, if any, significance that might hold was beyond me, but I found it creepy and disturbing.
ReluctantAvoid. Cecelia kept her head on Chloe’s shoulder, and Chloe was in no condition for long winded explanations. I took a step forward. “We were patrolling the city, looking for stashes of weapons or drugs like we always do, and we saw what looked like a deal going on.”
“Which you decided to drop in on rather than calling in to the cops?” She sounded about as impressed as you’d expect.
“Didn’t have time,” I said. True enough, though we’d been planning to get involved anyway. “We landed on the roof to get a closer look and make the call, but it turns out this wasn’t a deal, it was a fight between Heritage and some other gang.” I hesitated, and did my best not to look at the bodies. “We were trying to save lives.” For all the good it did us. In the end, any lives we saved belonged to Heritage itself.
“Landed on the roof?” By now, footsteps and beams of light had started approaching the ramp to our level. Either Eldritch gave them an all-clear sign somehow, or they decided not to wait for a signal. Perhaps the plan was she’d signal them to hold back, I had no way to know. “I was under the impression your tracking method could be used at a range of several miles. Why would you be so close in the first place?”
SuspicionCaution AgreedAlert. Right, she’s fishing for information. Cecelia turned her head just a bit, though didn’t stop holding Chloe. At this point, I wondered if she was doing it to annoy me. “You’re surprised to learn it’s easier to find thousands of tons of metal in the middle of an empty ocean than it is to find a few pounds of gun shaped metal in a city made of metal?”
Eldritch paused a moment, no doubt deciding how she’d enter that into our files as a potential limitation. I just hoped Cecelia’s statement was vague enough that their Espers and Trackers wouldn’t take that inch and run it another mile. “I would like to take you three to the station for further questioning about this incident.”
SuspicionFocus. “A-are we under arrest?” Chloe’s glow got just a bit brighter as she used her power to distort her voice. She’s in worse shape than I thought.
“No, you’re not,” she said. “Normally it’s against policy to reveal details of any police investigation, but I think it’s obvious an investigation will occur. We would like to get your statements on record before your memories start to fade. I don’t think I need to explain how important your testimony might be.”
ConcernCornered FrustrationAcceptance. Pity, we’d be better off if they were arresting us. ‘I want a lawyer’ is such a convenient tool, when it can’t be followed by ‘do you need one?’ “I guess we have an hour, but any longer and we’re risking identities.” Sorry, Chloe, best I can get away with. UnderstandingResignation.
“Your cooperation is appreciated.” Eldritch drifted back some, as a couple other Imbued officers approached. “This is Seraph, he’s new to our department.”
An imposing man who stood seven feet tall stepped forward. “It’s good to meet you.” Most of his height was in the form of battle armor that looked almost like stained glass. Whether he had a power similar to mine but with glass, or he was some brand of Gadgeteer, I wasn’t prepared to guess. In any case, the silver and gold patterns, with two sets of birdlike wings made it quite obvious he was going for an angel motif with or without the name.
I felt a bit self-conscious, given my own armor edged toward the opposite side of the celestial spectrum. Not through any deliberate religious imagery, but steel by its nature tended to be dark, and spiked blade armor was a go-to for villainy for those who could make it work for them. “Good to meet you, too. From what we heard, this city is going to need more heroes soon. But we can go over that at the station.” LimitUnderstandingAcceptance. It seemed my partners caught on to how much we needed to tell the cops.
Seraph nodded. “Yes, that’s probably for the best. If you’ll follow me, we can take you to the precinct.”
Seraph led us out the door as several normal officers positioned themselves to open fire on us if they had to. It struck me how on point Cecelia was in describing us as strong enough that firearms were no longer a threat. The vast majority of Imbued still feared guns, while we were safe against anything shy of anti-tank ordinance. That realization felt, perhaps, a bit too good. Still, as today demonstrated, we were far from unbeatable. Even if we could beat the local police, which I considered a ‘maybe’, that just meant they’d bring in the Feds.
The next hour or so was the reason we’d avoided jumping in on a fight until recently. Having answered the same questions a dozen different ways was an exercise in tedium. In addition, I couldn’t help but question their motives in assigning an attractive black woman to take my statement. They had witnesses for my first confrontation with Quash, after all.
“And you let Quash leave without a fight?” Somehow, she managed to sound friendly, sweet even, despite all but accusing me of allowing the bad guys to get away for the fifth time tonight.
“We weren’t sure we could win,” I said for the seventh or eighth time. “Quash had most of his team with him, and he threatened to use his power and bring the building down on us. I wasn’t ready to call his bluff, not when there were so many wounded to consider.”
She marked down something on her own notepad. “No Truthsayers on your team?”
I carefully avoided sighing. You can stop probing us for weaknesses at any time. “Officer Williams, we both know Truthsayers can be beat. Plus, as your colleagues have reminded my team over and over again, we’re not law enforcement officers, and trying to be is a crime.” I was pretty sure Samaritan and Stand Your Ground laws would have let us attack Heritage one way or another, but I wasn’t a lawyer. “We’re not cops, you can only expect so much.”
She nodded, with another note scribbled as I talked. “I understand.” I didn’t believe her. “I also understand it’s getting late, and what you witnessed must have been difficult.” She pulled off a piece of paper, then slid it over to me. “This is the number of an excellent therapist with experience in cases like this one. If you want someone to talk to. If you’re concerned about the costs, she’s been willing to defer payments before for heroes.”
I picked up the paper, then absorbed it into my armor. “That’s generous of her.” I wouldn’t be taking advantage, but I at least had to sound polite. “Does that mean you’ve gotten everything you need?”
“For the time being,” she said. “You may be required to testify in court, if it comes to that. Thank you for being so understanding.”
Yeah, I bet. I stood up as my metal reshaped itself to no longer be a chair. “Hey, just keep putting the scum in jail, and I’ll consider us even.” The door to the interview room turned out not to be locked, and another officer let me to the front area. Around me, cops hesitated despite the fact that I changed my costume from death-knight to a simple smooth statue.
ReliefLoveJoy. Chloe stood first, followed by Cecelia. It was Cecelia who spoke for the both of them. “For future reference, if they say it’ll take an hour, they really mean three hours if you’re lucky.”
“Thanks for the tip.” I joined them out the door, and only after I was certain we were out of earshot, I spoke. “So, how’d your interrogation go?”
FrustrationDisgust. “Next time I’m alone with Seraph, I’m going to rip his wings off, shove one down his throat and the other up his ass, and keep pushing until they met in the middle. And I think I might have agreed to a date with him!”
ShockDefend. Chloe reached out to her, then hugged her. “What happened?”
“He kept asking me about my costume!” Oh, that’s not good. “And I kept ignoring it, but he kept asking and I got the impression that he considered it weird that I didn’t want to talk about it, so I told him he’d have to peel it off of me first. Then he gave me his number! Creep.”
HesitationRelief. “That’s just a Gadgeteer thing. Most of them don’t know how to shut up about their toys.”
I was about to say something, when my cell phone rang. Which should have been impossible, since it had no SIM card. All it we could do was use it to call 911. How it got a signal despite being under several inches of metal was another mystery.
I pulled it out, nonetheless. AlertRetaliate. “Who is this?” And what weird physics breaking power is going on? I looked around, though I knew it would be Cecelia’s senses that found any threat.
“Let Chloe know her father wants her home now.” The phone went dead before I could say anything further.