A haitus has appeared!
It may disappear, but when is unknown.
A haitus has appeared!
It may disappear, but when is unknown.
An hour later and everyone was saved. Forget-me-not was detained and NHN agents were called to take her away. The town still had resentment to what the mayor easily described as “a false product”, and the schedule was altered but no casualties were created.
However, I’d gotten in trouble.
Alliance, Aim and Vortex were the agents sent to take Forget-me-not, and Alliance was not happy at how I handled the situation. I can understand that.
“…sing NHN agents as hostages the a reckless and irresponsible move, Ryan!” Alliance finished.
I didn’t quite catch that, but I understood the point he was making.
“We’ve been bending our backs trying to help you, and you not only take advantage of it, but do something like this? Hold on, let me list what we’ve done for you. The Sacrifice situation; you and I agree on that, she’s unfit for trial. The war incident three years ago is still yet to be resolved, but until today we were looking at an official pardon for you!”
He was flustered. I didn’t say a thing.
“Finally, there is the three villages project and the Expedition. You’ve already fucked up this by doing the worst thing ever, and now I’m seriously considering cancelling your partic- no. I’m considering heading to the board to incarcerate you.”
I didn’t answer to his comments. Somehow, the only thing that was going through my head was the fact I hadn’t done the worst thing. I could have pressed the button at any time.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t?” Alliance asked, his tone more calm now.
“There isn’t,” I replied. “I don’t have a reason or an excuse, sir.”
“Then why do it?”
I thought, opened my mouth to speak, closed it and tried again. Nothing.
“I… I don’t have a reason.”
“Ryan,” I could hear the fatigue draining in the sigh that followed my name. “This is the sort of thing that we were worried about,” said Alliance.
I had a clue what he meant. The masked man looked unlike his PR photos; he was tired here, not triumphant. There were no mounds to stand on with his short cape flowing behind him, no babies to hold.
“I’m not a sleeper agent,” I said. “I’m not.”
Alliance took a breath. “Then what are you, Ryan?”
I didn’t say anything, which was worse than what I could have said. I guess I fucked up again.
Alliance… Didn’t do anything. I don’t know why. I was taken off the expedition team and sent away for rehabilitation. There was a risk, they said. They already were worried that I was a sleeper agent, and the distinctive scar on my chest isn’t helping. That and my almost murder of seven people.
I wished I was. Then everything could be explained away and it would all be normal, I’d be back as me. I could actually grieve over my parents without feeling like it’s a hollow chore, or I could face Michael and Ri- No.
No. I’m just hiding behind my faults again.
I sighed and slumped back in my chair. Jackson Correctional Facility had a few staff, but the wait for one to see me was getting irritating. After shifting my position again, almost getting out of my seat the door opened and somebody finally came in.
“Apologies for the wait Mr Anderson, one of the patients was acting dangerously.”
I thought about spreading my power, but didn’t.
The staff member was a guy with short hair. His uniform was reminiscent of the scrubs surgeons wear than a trained ward.
“Hey,” I said.
He sat down, opposite me. The folder was thin, but I knew what it had. I’d grown accustomed to seeing my existence held on a clipboard or file.
“It seems as though you were doing fine up until recently,” he said, clicking a pen and pulling out a notepad.
“Things don’t go perfectly,” I responded.
“You are right, but that’s still understating what you did.”
Some part of me thought it was amusing how the NHN were so negligent at some things and so strict with others. Maybe that’s the result of government sponsorship? Maybe the fact that the army, the police force and many other government institutions felt as though capes were taking over, the only supported avenue was crippled in very specific places?
Actually, nevermind that, I’m here for a reason.
“Can we get to the important part…” I left my sentence hanging, prompting his name.
“Dr. Wiles. Call me Dr. Wiles.”
“Okay, I can do that,” I said.
“Okay. You understand why you are here right?”
I understood clearly. Even if I didn’t want to admit it, every now and then thoughts would pop up, asking me questions. Why don’t I tell them about why I have the scar on my chest? I ask myself. Why do I neglect to tell anyone that New Austin will open up soon?
“Because I’m a sleeper agent,” I finally admitted. “I’ve got something in my head that’s hiding away, and it’s subtle enough that I don’t notice it. There are these rules and commands I’m following, but not hearing.”
Dr. Wiles nodded at me to continue, writing down what I said on the notepad.
“I um… I guess I had an idea, but I put it off. I didn’t think about it, or avoided the subject.”
“You didn’t want to consider the idea?” Dr. Wiles clarified.
“I still don’t,” I responded. “The idea that he still has a hold over me, I don’t…”
The words drifted off and out of my mind. Dammit.
“What can you do?” I finally asked after a long silence.
Dr. Wiles was stoic. “With your powers? Nothing legal.”
Ah. My awareness. Taker bypassed that, and I can’t nullify it while being aware due to the fact he’s not easily accessible. Any mind tinkering that they’d do here is a no go, due to the fact that my required consent means I’d be aware for the most part.
No, that’s not right, I still have range limits, right?
“What do you mean? I still have range limits on my powers, right? Just create a distance?”
“We’ve actually tried accessing your mind already. It seems Taker has specialities in creating nearly impossible to remove psychic suggestions, not without his help, or help from…” He caused to consider his next words. “More dangerous sources of aid.”
“There’s nothing, right?”
“We are trying to trigger it in a controlled environment. Most sleeper agent triggers are built around one time activations, especially when the victim is unaware they exist.”
I was dumbfounded. “You’re saying what I need to do is actually set it off?” I asked.
“No,” Dr. Wiled answered. “We need to set it off, in a place you cannot do harm.”
“How long would that take?” I asked, taking my hands off my chest and putting them on the table.
“It could take years.”
I looked away and smirked. “Damn,” I said.
Dr. Wiles gave a nod and left, gesturing to let me leave the room and collect my stuff. I was thinking of leaving the building and fixing myself the fast way, but there are things that need to happen first.
I need to see Samantha.
Forget-me-not stumbled and dropped the transmitter into the grass as her head bashed against the bumper of a car, her helmet taking the blow. I got up as she put her hand against the car to stabilise herself, and kicked her in the gut., stumbling back as she rolled across the front of the parked car.
She scrambled for the transmitter on all fours. I brought my shield down, hard. Luckily for her the grass was soft and the dirt muddy. I could have chopped four fingers off in any other situation.
“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath, seething with pain. I quickly gave her a hard kick as I pulled up my shield out of the mud, freeing her hand and allowing her to fall to her side.
I walked over and picked up the remote while she nursed her fingers, covered in mud and clearly cut.
“I win.” I stated, looking right at her as I lightly shook the remote in my hand, smiling behind my visor.
She scowled at me.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” she said. “You don’t fucking tackle someone with the trigger to a bomb!”
“Well, I don’t think the bomb has gone off,” I replied, walking over to another car and leaning on the front. “You don’t seem to act like one went off, and I don’t have any indication there was an explosion.”
She got up and marched over to me. “That’s because the explosion is silent, you fucking asshole.”
I sighed and put my finger over the button. She stopped in her tracks.
“Wait,” she said, looking at my expression and the trigger. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would,” I replied. “I know you wouldn’t. Did my research.”
She followed my hand as I waved my arm from side to side and pulled out a phone from my pocket. I pressed a few buttons to bring up Forget-me-not on the internet, and pointed the screen at her. Forget-me-not alternated between looking at my face, the screen and the trigger.
“I know you’ve never had a murder, and you’ve even had autographs. I don’t think you’d blow up seven guys. Hell, you should have killed them then and there. You had the power to.”
She gulped, taking a step back. I turned the phone off and smiled. The situation had changed completely.
“We’ve got to see if you actually did kill seven people,” I said with an all too friendly tone in my voice. “Go on, show me where they are. I’ll follow.”
She clenched her fist, shaking in anger. I sighed and waved the remote, finger gently resting on the button.
“You’re a fucking maniac, how the hell are you a he-”
“I’m not a hero,” I interrupted, getting off the car. “I’m not going to play nice, or coddle you, or give two fucks about those men. The only place this ends is with you being shipped off into a one way trip to the city, and all you can do about it is decide how many people die before then, okay?”
She turned and led the way, walking into the woods next to the convoy.
“Get moving, and don’t stop.” I finished.
The woods were tranquil and calm. Light didn’t bother to permeate the trees and there was a lack of sound that wasn’t the crushing of detritus underfoot. Forget-me-not was a few paces ahead, holding the hand I crushed with my shield. She had occasionally turned back to see if I was following, but stopped when I waved at her and pointed at the device when she turned for a third time.
We were getting nowhere. A few minutes of walking decided it for me.
“Hey, if you are leading me in circles I’ll press the damn thing,” I said.
“Don’t, we’ll be there in five mins!” she said as she turned around and looked at me, a frightened tone creeping into her voice.
I groaned, tossing and catching the trigger in the air as Forget-me-not gasped in shock. I wondered how Margaret and Samantha were doing. Samantha was cooped up in a cape psychiatry ward and Margaret was back in Oklahoma, with Maxine, Gunsmith and a few other adult capes in the National Heroes Network. Michael and Ricky crossed my mind as well; I’d been trapped in Texas for three years, days before I was going to meet them with Derek and Maxine.
“Hey,” asked Forget-me-not. “why’d we stop?”
I shook my head and groaned in frustration. “Fucking Texas,” I mumbled. “Why?”
Forget-me-not shot an odd look my way as I walked over to a tree and placed my had against it. She almost walked over before she caught a fresh glimpse of the device in my hand. Long, painful seconds passed as I thought about Ellen, Derek, Texas, Samantha and Taker.
“You m-mentioned Texas,” she said with a stammer, finally breaking the silence, maybe buying time to try something. “Y-you were there, right?”
“Yup,” I replied, feeling the memory version of a headache.
“You fought the Texans? Kelpie and Wendigo and Aim?”
“Not them, but I fought a few,” I replied, thinking of Corvus. I actually killed someone. How could I forget that?
“They are in the NHN you know,” said Forget-me-not. Even minor crooks keep up to date on this stuff? Really? I never did and I want to go back to those days. Those days where me and Michael and Derek and Ellen and Maxine and Ricky woul-
“You were in the city?” she asked, the cogs finally clicking. “That one area that got blocked off? How?”
“Stop talking,” I barely managed to myself, let alone her. I can’t do this.
I heard her creep closer as the leaves underneath slowly crunched. I turned to her with the trigger out.
“Stop. I’ll make sure they get blown to kingdom come,” I barely managed to say, still leaning against the tree. There’s only one person here, the forest is empty! Why do I want space to myself when she’s so far away?
“We’re here anyway,” she said, trying to trick me or something. I can’t trust her, not like this. The crunch of leaves underfoot made me react.
“Stay back,” I ordered again. “Shut up and stay back.”
She took a step back, hands in the air. She pointed in the direction, and I turned to look, seeing a metal door. A bunker in the woods.
“A bunker?” I asked.
“For worst case scenarios. Stuff like metahuman tech malfunctions or stuff, Kingmaker events, Great Lords, Fae, The Hunting Par-”
“Shut up,” I said again. A third time. “Open it and let them out.”
“J-just don’t press the button.”
There must be an indicator that tells her if the bombs or whatever have gone off. Maybe the fact the door was still on its hinges was a sign, or the lack of smoke, or something. That doesn’t matter, Forget-me-not was already pulling on the metal door embedded in the mound with a foot against the dirt next to it for leverage. The door swung open and she went inside.
The convoy was a wreck. Whatever Forget-me-not used to hit it, she hit it hard. My trailer was ripped in two, a simmer of flame popping out from the hole. Two of the three NHN cars were overturned, and the remaining trailers were unscathed but clearly affected by a shockwave, as all the broken glass can show. I pushed my way into the scene, looking at the ambulance and firemen as they tried to calm the civilian crowd.
“Shit, she hit everyone,” Agent Morris said, huffing out breaths as he looked at the scene. “Where are my guys?”
I didn’t know. They weren’t with the ambulance, or the firemen. They could be dead, or maybe forget-me-not is using her technology again?
Morris began looking through his phone, dialling and texting and trying to get a response from his team. No use. Nothing. I began looking for clues, for something among the wreckage.
“Fuck,” finally said Morris, almost throwing his phone. “No use!”
I was annoyed as much as he was. We were busy enjoying coffee and food, and three streets away a maniac who can mess with perception kidnaps seven agents for the National Heroes Network. This is the worst case scenario.
I groaned, rubbed the back of my hair, turned around to see the mayor and revised my statement.
This is the worst case scenario. He was pissed, furious that my powers, the powers that the NHN insisted would keep his people safe failed, and they failed within an hour in spectacular fashion.
“You try to sell my town snake oil?”
God damn it. He’s picking me out.
The crowd itself was agreeing with Warren. I could hear murmurs and whispers of unity among the townspeople in the background.
“They said you’d prevent this happening,” Warren said, jabbing me with a pudgy finger. “Explain this.”
I took a breath to gather my thoughts. “I don’t know what they said. I can prevent powers from working directly in any space I alter, but nothing prevents stuff already created from working.”
I took a glance at the wreckage and Morris.
“How can I protect my people when the supposed ‘ultimate protection’ fails an hour after it’s put up? Tell me that!?”
“You’ll be safe,” I said. “I can assure you of that.”
The convoy took a while but I managed to drive it out of the town slowly, bit by bit. Morris took the cars and I took the trailers. My trailer still drove even after being ripped apart, thankfully. I should send thanks to whoever built or designed it.
We reached a part out of my range but with the town in sight, not far from it. Meeker had a river and a stream nearby, but the land was mostly flat. Having this as data, I concluded that Forget-me-not didn’t have anything large on her. At least, nothing like a vehicle.
I did a few small jumps to fight off the chill in the air. Morris lit a cigarette, partially because of stress, partially because the lighter provided a little warmth. We waited.
“Morris?” I asked.
“Yeah?” he responded.
“Where do you think you’d hold seven NHN agents? I mean, there isn’t many places to hide them.”
“Hmm,” Morris thought, pondering the conversation. “I’d hide them. This bitch does have stealth as her forte so she could easily lock em in a building and make people forget it exists.”
I nodded. “That does seem like the obvious conclusion. We’d have a map for Meeker, right?”
“You think we’d find it with a map?”
“I’ve seen memory alteration,” I replied, thinking of Maxine’s powers. “this ain’t it. We can beat it easy.”
“Then you tell me why ain’t she caught yet,” said Morris, drawing a smoke from his cigarette.
“Well, I’m thinking it’s the reason she wasn’t caught this time,” I replied. “She’s putting her crimes in a bubble, or making it so that nobody is aware of what’s happening as she acts.”
“Hmm, that’s correct,” replied Forget-me-not.
“So, I’m thinking if we wait out here she’ll attack us,” I continued, scratching my head.
“Why wouldn’t I just go for the town?”
“Well, what reason is there to? She’s the sole cape in Meeker, so I don’t think she needs to worry about them. the NHN on the other hand…” I gestured, stepping towards Morris.
I didn’t get a reply, he’s out cold and Forget-me-not is there, right in front of me. She’s dressed in green, a hobnob style of bits sewn together, mainly arranged to avoid a stray bullet or survive a non-powered human playing hero. Her mask is a simple motorbike helmet, cracked from a previous scuffle. She wore a backpack, a faint blue aura emitting from it, giving her a slight glow.
She clicked the button on a small device, and her backpack stopped glowing.
“Ah, it appears you are in my range,” I said. “I see Morris is down.”
“Take what you did away or I’ll blow them up,” the villain demanded. I admired her frankness, oddly enough. Still, she got no reaction from me. Forget-me-not hovered her thumb over a second button on her device. Probably a trigger for a bomb.
“Go on. You’ll upgrade from a small time crook to a threat if you blow seven people up, and bigger, larger people will come. It won’t be two capes who are born here, it’ll be people looking for you. Roamers are usually the worst.”
“I can alwa-”
I laughed, not the smartest choice. She looked at me oddly.
“Always what?” I asked with venom in my tone. “Run away? Fight them off?”
She backed up, nearly stepping out of my range. I followed, not wanting her to get the drop on me, closing the gap.
“You think you can fight them off?”
Forget-me-not stumbled a little, stunned. “I’ll press it, I swear to god I will.”
She wouldn’t. She is to weak, too merciful. She’s a wannabe bank robber who leaves no victims and specializes in hostages, but never kills anyone. She’s the type who says they’ll kill themselves the fifth time and everyone would think ‘do it’ but say ‘don’t’.
I tackled her, and she pressed a button.
“Shit, you’re right,” I said, almost heaving after taking the first mouthful of my lunch. “This food is awful.”
Morris chuckled as I spat out a mouthful of bacon back onto the plate. How can you mess the texture of bacon up badly?
“I warned you,” he smirked, wagging a finger.
“Isn’t there a place with good food here?”
“Other side of town,” he explained. “this is one of those diners where the food doesn’t need to be good. It’s either eating here or starving.”
The emphasis was correct. The diner wasn’t packed, there was a smell that I hoped wasn’t the food and the staff were clearly minimum wage or part time. It didn’t take much to tell that the place let itself go because of the sheer monopoly it had on selling cooked food to eat.
I smiled at the idea of buying fish from the place. Naivety only goes so far before it becomes stupidity, and buying a guaranteed dose of food poisoning is crossing that line.
The other guests weren’t much. A man in a coat, sipping coffee. Somebody driving across the country. Some college goer abusing the free wi-fi with her boyfriend, who is actually eating food and not throwing up. Still, it’s a diner that could serve thirty, and only has six people being served.
“So Ryan,” began Morris. “I hear you are going into Biohazard’s park, right?”
“Yeah,” I responded, taking a sip of coffee.
“Didn’t expect a vet like you to still risk your life.”
Morris flinched and rubbed the back of his head breaking eye contact. I noticed he had a bald spot.
“Sorry, old joke,” he replied.
“What’s the joke?”
“Don’t want to say…”
“Come on,” I pressed. “I’m not going to bite.”
“Well it’s a saying in the police forces,” he explained with a little hint of embarrassment. “What’s a cape with PTSD called? A veteran. Everyone who used to be a cop or still is knows the joke, and thus you get capes called stuff like ‘vets’.”
I smirked at that. It’s a funny joke.
“So it’s just cop lingo?” I asked, followed by “You used to be a cop?”
“That’s true. I worked for about seven years before I quit and came here,” Morris stated. He took another sip.
“I don’t know why you’d quit one job and do the same thing but with capes.”
“Lots of NHN agents used to be cops. Since capes started appearing, police got cuts globally whenever they get a chance to enforce the law legally.”
Morris took a moment to think.
“You should know this, Ryan.”
“I didn’t pay attention in school,” I admitted, shrugging my shoulders. “At least, not about capes.”
I remember that costing me from day one. Considering how Sacrifice acted on my second meeting with her, we got off relatively lucky. Well, at least Ricky, Michael and Maxine did, anyway.
“So I guess there’s some irritation about capes from cops, right?”
“Yeah, there is. It’s like most cops think people randomly selected shouldn’t have power over others. Actually, most people have those issues, remember the conscription debates in the UN?”
“I heard about it a little, but it was glossed over.”
Morris gave an inquisitive look, which I responded to with a shrug. It was true. Most negative things that aren’t related to civil rights are glossed over in schooling.
“Anyway Ryan, speaking of staying informed,” Morris said. “You did your homework on Biohazard, right?”
I did, but not enough. The information on Biohazard and the park was surrounded by mystery and suspicion, and that’s from the NHN itself. One story tells of tribes of monsters, another talking about giant robots. The only thing that was consistent was that Biohazard was not alone in his park; he had an ally who was immune to his powers, somehow.
But that’s not why there is going to be an expedition. The situation in Biohazard’s area has always been stable, but there is pressure from congress to reclaim it, especially after the near total victory against Texas. The victory that was celebrated while I-
“Ryan?” Morris repeated, looking a little concerned.
“Sorry,” I replied. “Sometimes I…”
I let the sentence drift off. It’s become less of an issue. I used to have complete flashbacks, vivid remembrances of those three years of hell I endured. They’ve all but disappeared, hiding away in my dreams, or glimmers of my memories appearing, if only for a second.
God knows what’s happening with Samantha.
I sighed and downed the rest of my coffee in one gulp. “We should be going.”
Morris groaned and got up as I did, following me as I left the diner. We already payed for the terrible food and ok drinks at the till, and we had a schedule to keep.
“Don’t push yourself, Ryan,” Morris lectured. “You have the expedition, then two more towns to visit.”
The expedition. The first time I’ll be part of a team in three years. I thought about it intensely for a while as I walked back through the streets, noting more and more crowds as we hit the main street. Morris’s phone beeped and he opened it up before shooting a look of concern.
“Morris?” I asked.
“The convoy was hit. Super tech. It jammed our signals and was silent.”
We both took a second to stare at each other than ran for the trailers and cars. It appears we were reminded why there were two capes in Meeker. They were there to stop the local supervillain, who has technical powers.
“Shit, how’d we forget?” I asked.
“It’s a cape called Forget-me-not,” Morris explained, looking it up on his NHN issued phone. “Anorak countered her powers, which is building stuff that alters awareness and memory.”
I dived around a small crowd and found my way next to Morris in the bustle, running as fast as he could.
“You mean that she went off the grid and we just forgot?” I asked, realizing it was rhetorical.
I’ve dealt with this before, maybe she’s attacking because I smoked her out by accident.
“It’s only her, right? Nobody else?” I asked Morris.
He checked his phone. “No, just her.”
Good, I thought. I can handle this.