Luke comes through the door to Wire’s office ready to go: he’s got a small notebook in one hand with a pen stuck in the binding, and his mask is already off, hung from the fingers of his other hand.
“Everyone’s done with their visits with the Doctor–“
“We’ve got a Predator sighting.”
The silence hangs heavily. Wire sighs, Luke scrubs at his face with a hand and falls into a chair. Their breathing room, so precious and rare in their line of work, just vanished.
“Where and when?” Luke asks finally, setting the notebook on his side of Wire’s desk and flipping it open to a fresh page. He’s sure Wire’s got all the details written down somewhere – and probably copied for Luke’s use – but writing things down himself helps him remember them.
“Last night, Mend thought he saw her outside his window. He stepped outside – yes, I’ve told him how stupid that was – and she winked at him and disappeared.”
Luke pauses, his pen stilling on the page. “She what?”
Wire taps at a few keys on his laptop and runs a hand through his hair. “He says she moved so fast he barely saw her.”
“Shit,” Luke scribbles down more notes. “When did she become a blinker?”
“She’s probably not,” Wire demurs, shifting both himself and his laptop so Luke can see the files on his screen. “At least, not higher than D-class. Depending on how she’s interpreting her Name, she might just be as fast as a cheetah, or some other hunting animal.”
“Just?” Luke asks, reading the file called ‘Predator’. It’s got a new picture, one recently updated by an artist allowed access to the video of Aiyana’s testimony.
“Better than supersonic,” Wire counters, scrolling down a little. He pulls up another window, this one for an email to the Director’s right-hand man. “It’s unlikely anyone but PLE Chicago will have to deal with her any time soon, but they do still need to know that’s she’s either got blinker status, or that she’s working with someone who has the ability to blink someone else.”
Luke tilts his head, admitting that Wire has a point. He finishes his read – nothing new, not that he expected there to be – and leans back in his chair. “What now?”
Wire reaches into a drawer and pulls out a thin stack of paper. “Our original orders were to investigate a newcomer on the scene – a stage magician they think might be a parahuman – but as soon as the Director got my report, he changed them. Now our official orders are to find and detain Predator.”
Luke sighs in frustration. “Are we even sure Mend saw Predator? It could have been someone else.”
“His description matches what we know of her, and she’s the only parahuman we know of who can find people this quickly.” Wire twists the laptop back toward himself, then starts putting the finishing touches on his email.
“Do you think we should be worried about her getting her hands on Mirror?”
Wire shakes his head. “If she were going to, she would have already.”
“But we still expect Mirror to help us capture Predator.” Luke realizes he’s gone quite still, his eyes on Wire and pen hovering above the paper. He forces himself to move again, writing something meaningless down.
“Agent Mirror is on probation, and therefore exempt from assignments unless her powerset is critical to them,” Wire replies, his tone the bland, official sort one might expect from a police statement.
“You don’t think she’s critical to an assignment where we’re capturing her girlfriend?” Luke stares, no longer worried about looking less concerned than he actually is.
“Regulations say that unless her powerset is critical to the mission, she’s exempt,” Wire looks up, meets Luke’s eyes calmly. “Nothing about Mirror’s low-class blinking or any class of shifting sounds particularly critical to a tracking and brute-force capture mission.”
“Are we even going to tell her?” Luke knows his voice is rising, but doesn’t care. He loves his job, but he hates when they have to go about it like this.
The official tone stays in Wire’s voice. “All PLE assignments are classified. Probationary members have no security clearance unless and until the knowledge is considered critical for them to know.” Wire’s eyes say in no uncertain terms that this is the best he can do, that this is the best way to protect her while still getting his job done.
Luke collects his pen and paper, stands, and forcefully unclenches his jaw. “I’ll go tell the rest of our team.”
Wire isn’t fooled, and they both know it.
“Good.” Shield nods approvingly, looking up from his work bench. His shield lays face-down, and the scent of oil hangs heavy in the air as Shield applies it to the leather straps. “I grew tired of doing nothing.”
Luke shakes his head. “Training is important, too.” A beat, then, “have you thought about what the Doctor said?”
Shield’s eyes move back down to his work, his movements becoming sharper. “I have no one to test myself against, Captain. How am I to tell the strength of my mental defenses if no one can approach the walls?”
“Have you tried against Wire’s energy boost?”
“I have, and it did not stop his effect on me.” A piece of leather gets oiled unnecessarily hard. “I am not sure if it is because I know it is beneficial, or because my shield does not apply to the body working on itself.”
Luke nods in sympathy. One of the problems with having powers that depend on belief and interpretation is that unlike comic book powers, there are very few hard limits, and no reliable way to tell when something is a hard limit, or a soft one and can then be talked or thought around.
“Keep trying, and stay ready. We have to find Predator to go after her, and there’s no way to tell when that will be.” Luke drops a hand on Shield’s shoulder on his way out, and heads out to find Abyss.
The scent of ink and industrial cleaner greet Luke when he walks into A Fool’s Pride. He’s greeted by a woman who is wearing more in body jewelry than his entire wardrobe is worth, and he cuts off her question – does he have an appointment? – by waving and walking into the back.
Abyss’ text told him to look for a room in the back with a blacked-out window, and the reason for the privacy is immediately apparent when he’s let in: the tattoo currently being inked is on the hollow of Abyss’ left hip, and she’s wearing very little on her lower half to give the artist freedom to work.
Luke flushes and jerks his head up to keep his eyes on Abyss’ face. A slight smile flashes over her face.
“Hey, uh, we’re all going out to meet Aiyana’s girlfriend,” Luke stumbles a little through his planned code, clearing his throat.
“Are we going to try and get her to work with us, again?” Abyss asks, tone casual even through the tension he can see on her face. When Luke nods, Abyss sighs theatrically. “Better not tell Aiyana the Boss is after her woman, again. She’s not going to take it well.”
“No way,” Luke agrees, holding his hands up. “She got kinda mean after the last time.”
Some of the tension leaves Abyss’ face. “Yeah, she kinda did, didn’t she? Let me know what time we’re going; I think Anna will like my new ink.”
Luke risks a glance at her hip. It’s only half-finished, but the outlined name there is Agares.
“Family of yours?”
Abyss almost smiles. “You could say that. I’ll text you about it later.”
They make meaningless conversation for a few more minutes, and Luke’s phone buzzes when he’s in the parking lot.
Beth (Work): Agares: demon dealing with runaway persons and earthquakes. Noble titles, too, but I don’t think that’s going to help.
He hums thoughtfully, slides his phone back into his pocket, and drives toward Mend’s apartment.
“Okay.” Mend’s voice is surprisingly steady, and he only looks away from Luke’s eyes half as much as he’s used to.
“You’re not worried?” Luke probably shouldn’t be asking that, but he’d expected some kind of worry, not this calm acceptance.
“If she wanted to hurt me, she would have done it.” There’s a calm acceptance in him that Luke isn’t really sure what to do with. He’s pretty sure he wouldn’t be calm about someone like Predator stalking him, but Mend just seems to roll with it.
“Be ready,” is all Luke can really say at this point without feeling like he’s undermining Mend’s confidence.
Mend nods in response. “I will.”
Chapter Seventeen is the last proper chapter of the Establishment arc! There’s an Exterlude coming as soon as the betas finish with it.
While the story continues to be nicely written I’m feeling uncertain about the world the story is set in. I have no real feel for the setting in general.
It seems that the Named are all secretive in general though why?
When did people start getting powers? has it always been that way or is it something that happened recently?
How much does the public know, why is the government organisation looking for para sort of a black ops group rather than out in the open.
Why has no one ended up using powers on TV / Youtube?
What power range are we dealing with, what’s the Max power level?
Basically the story seems to have a conspiracy / hidden world setting without giving any information as to how it was built which is reducing my enjoyment as I’m not sure what kind of story / setting I’m looking at. That’s not quite the right feeling I have but it’s close enough. When it was just Mirror and Predator in the first arc it ws OK but as things have gone on it’s starting to grate.
I’m going to go back and put something about why the non-PLE Named are secretive. I think it’ll work in Flashback: Hellfire, though it may need to be farther back than that.
To answer your questions while I write the answers into the story itself:
*Non-PLE Named are secretive because the PLE disappears Named who don’t keep themselves on the DL.
*No one is entirely certain; the origin of the Named is a thing that will be dealt with over the course of the story.
*Not much at all. It’s definitely need-to-know. The PLE is black ops for as long as they can, to build their power base and structure before the public has to be notified.
*They have. The PLE has been yanking those videos, or editing them to look fake.
*That is another thing that will be dealt with over the course of the story.
Thanks for bringing this stuff to my attention, I didn’t know it was bothering people!