“Sir, please drop the gun.”
The white-clad young man kept his tone level, hands held out in front of himself. He considered taking off the mask, then decided against it. Doing anything the guy in front of him couldn’t predict could end badly.
“No… no…” the guy’s voice shook, but the gun stayed steady. His facial hair had moved past five o’clock shadow, well onto the borderline between trying to grow it out and too lazy to shave. His clothes were dirty and stained, and the shadows underneath his eyes told Smoke what else he hadn’t done lately. “I know what happens to paras that you guys take in. I know what happens. We never come back out of those labs of yours!”
“Sir, please. If that were true, I wouldn’t be standing here.” Codename Smoke tried to make his voice soothing, keeping his distance. He slowly moved one hand out to the side, releasing his hold on the solid form. His hand slowly dissolved into black smoke, undoubtedly something a normal human couldn’t do. “See? I’m just like you. They just trained me so I wouldn’t hurt myself.”
The gunman frowned, his weapon lowering by a few inches. Smoke let the guy take in his smoke-form hand for a few seconds, then firmed it up, his hand returning to blood-and-flesh over the course of moments.
“Maybe they did,” the guy said, raising the gun, “but they made you join the black hats, didn’t they? Brainwashed you until you jumped when they said how high!”
“No, sir, they did not,” Smoke shook his head firmly in the face of the gunman’s nonsense. “I chose to become a Parahuman Law Enforcement officer.”
The guy’s eyes dragged down Smoke’s jumpsuit. Normally, it’d be kinda awkward, a guy looking at him like this, but he didn’t think the guy was checking him out. If anything, he was looking for some slight hint that Smoke was lying. His eyes lingered on the PLE badge on the left side of Smoke’s chest, then he shook his head.
“It’s okay, brother,” the man said, voice serious. “You’ll forgive me in the next world. Better dead than brainwashed.”
Before he could pull the trigger, Smoke exploded, his entire body shifting into smoke-form. He threw himself forward toward where he had seen the guy, pulling himself together when he hit a mass roughly the size of a person. He shifted back to solid, forming his body so his arms were looped around the gunman’s armpits, his hands laced together behind his head.
Yanking his arms backward hard when he was fully formed, Smoke snapped one foot into the back of the guy’s knee. He dropped down as well when the guy lost his footing, holding him in place while a regular police officer rushed out from behind a nearby patrol car. Together, they got the guy’s gun away from him, and cuffs on him.
“Thanks, Agent Smoke,” the officer said sincerely, eyeing the parahuman in the back of his vehicle. “Is he going to be alright on the way to the station?”
“Yeah,” Smoke replied, hefting the bag with the gun in it. “He needs this, or something else he’s made, or he’s just like anybody else. Just keep him isolated until somebody bigger than me can come get him.” He smiled wryly, encouraging the officer to joke at his self-depricating humor. He knew he wasn’t the brawniest guy, in either Name or body.
The officer chuckled politely, and climbed into the squad car. Smoke watched him go just in case, before dissolving into smoke and throwing himself toward the nearest rooftop to continue his patrol.