May 15, 2080 - 2:43 PM-Lakeview
"Mom? You doin' alright?"
Eli shook herself back into action, blinking as she turned to face her son."Of course I am."
She waved off the concern by knocking back what little remained of her beer. She found most alcohol unpleasant and anything weaker than paint thinner wouldn't even get her buzzed, but people cracked open cold ones at family gatherings which meant she did too.
That was the name of the game, blending in. Hanging out with her son's family while pretending to be a normal person, putting aside her status as a disgruntled veteran, cold-blooded mercenary and larger-than-life superhero. There sat Eli Ford, mingling with ex-cousins in the backyard of some nephew's house. She acted like she had put it all behind her and they believed it, most of the Nielsens happy to have her around despite the breakup with one of their own.
"If you say so."
Jamie knew better than to question her, he had long grown used to watching her bottle everything up. He knew his mother was an odd beast and accepted her for it. He was a far better son than she deserved. "So, when were you going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?""That you made detective!"
Eli had to stop herself from shouting, pride nearly overcoming her socially-induced unease. "Your dad had to text me, and he found out from your watch commander? Come the fuck on!"
Jamie smiled sheepishly, looking at the grass as he took a sip of his drink. "It wasn't that important-""Nope. Nuh-uh. None of that self-deprecation 'oh it was no biggie' stuff right now. Detective Nielsen of the Major Crimes Division, not that important..."
She let the words hang in the air for a moment before pulling Jamie in, trapping him in a properly suffocating bear hug. "I'm so proud of you. We both are, and we know how hard you've worked. The city's lucky to have you."
She got only a muffled squeak in return, the air in Jaime's lungs having been forced out of him by her death grip. Eli held him juuust
a bit longer, finally releasing him with a laugh."When are you getting your implants?"
"I've had them for the past six months, or some of them anyway. Apparently, they'd rather spend money upfront to make sure I'm acclimated to all the new bits and pieces instead of letting me figure it out on the job.""Makes sense."
Eli had more to say, questions to ask or comments to make, all the remarks a proud parent would make flittering about her head. But more distant relations had just arrived, a small group making their way over to intrude on her and her son. As the hellos and how are yous swarmed in Eli did her best to keep up, answering with faint smiles.
Once again Jaime wasn't fooled.
"Oh, Mom you're meeting with your PR people, right? You should get a move on."
The excuse was flimsy but Eli wasn't about to complain. Goodbyes left her mouth without her input, body drifting away on autopilot. Edging through the throng of relatives with gritted teeth she managed to make it just out of view of the party before sprinting off beyond the speed of sound.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------May 15, 2080 - 6:27 PM - Brigitte
When the man opened the door to his garage his eyes took a moment to adjust. The lights weren't on and the windows were dusty and blocked off by boxes, rendering the room twilight-dark. Ignoble was counting on this fact to give them the element of surprise, and it worked. Marcus Miller saw only the vague outline before they lunged, one hand pulling him in by the jacket as the other pushed the door shut behind him."Hello, Doctor."
The words came out distorted, the mechanical scramblers in Ignoble's mask rendering their voice a guttural snarl. The sound, low in volume but high in menace, seemed much louder in the little garage. "I apologize for startling you."
Miller didn't respond, staring slack-jawed at the skull-headed specter before him. A lazy shove sent him sprawling to the ground, Ignoble unhooking a pistol and leveling it at his heart."I understand you habitually carry a weapon? Keep it hidden for now, unless you want the missus to find you with two in the head."
From inside the house came peppy instructions, the encouraging voice of a virtual instructor. "Almost done! Strong finish gang, strong finish!""If you cooperate I'll be out of here before she's showered."
Miller swallowed, grimaced, looked back toward the sound of an in-progress exercise routine...and relented.
"How'd you know where-""You didn't hide."
Ignoble said dismissively. "I found your address, your life story, figured out your household routine, the works. You're a former second lieutenant who got tired of army life after one term, went back to school where you met your wife Margaret and got a job as head of security for the bank she works at. Recently you graduated with a doctorate in Genetics and have begun work on identifying which, if any, gene is responsible for Variance. Margaret goes out with her girlfriends every Wednesday at eight, you take a half-hour walk around the neighborhood each day around six."
They thumbed back the hammer, a mechanically useless gesture since the pistol was double-action but one that signified evil intentions. The click clarified how serious Ignoble was, just in case there was any doubt. "Which brings us to now. Margaret finishes her workout in about five minutes and after she grabs a snack and a shower she'll be leaving. In the meantime, we're going to negotiate."
Miller didn't respond for a moment, simply staring down the barrel of the suppressed .45 holding him hostage. Ignoble allowed him to run down the timer as much as he wished, an impassive skull hiding the careful calculations they were running. They were taking a risk by being here but it would be worth it if Miller cooperated.
"You want money then?""Not yours. I have three demands. The first is quite simple: quit your research and destroy any progress you might have made."
"Fine.""It goes without saying that I will be doing my due diligence to make sure you don't hand anything off to your colleagues."
"I assumed as much. Not that it matters, I haven't learned anything we didn't already know."
Ignoble had known this already, their Syndicate sources having pulled Miller's portfolio days ago. Still, better to be safe than sorry."Second, Ike Murray."
Miller put on a look of confusion, a gambit that didn't fool Ignoble for an instant."Isaac Murray? Your advisor in the doctoral program? An older gentleman, mid-sixties?"
Ignoble cocked their head, modulated voice adopting an air of faux confusion."It seems I've wasted my time. Margaret might be late to karaoke, she'll have a mess to clean."
Miller swore under his breath, his last-ditch attempt a failure. Ignoble noted that he was far angrier than he was scared, their sharp senses picking up on the subtle flushing of his face and the rapid rise and fall of his chest. He felt fear of course, but it was purely for his family.
They were making the right choice.
"Fine, what about him?""I need access to his lab. I know you have a current keycard to the facility, and if you're as intelligent as I believe you to be you'll leave it under that birdbath in your backyard tonight."
"I suppose you'll kill me if I refuse.""And leave your body for Margaret to find, yes."
They could see the conflict raging inside the poor man. His features, already worn from a life of rigorous study, were drawn and haggard, eyes filled with the sort of desperation one felt when presented with two horrible choices. But there was only one real option."Fine! Just-just leave us alone."
Ignoble simply nodded. The cheery chanting had died down only to be replaced by running water, the lady of the house now freshening up for her night on the town. "Provided you heed my second demand: Liam."
The unspoken anger flared into properly verbalized outrage, Miller propping himself up as he spat "How da-!"
The outburst died out as suddenly as it started, the unfortunate doctor shooting a look back towards the door to the house. "That's right, take it easy Doctor. I'd prefer if we kept this discussion calm, I wouldn't want to...rebuke any outside parties."
"You expect me to turn over my son?" Miller asked, now deathly quiet."Quite the opposite. I'd prefer not to deal with him at all but his focus on the Variance makes it difficult for me to ignore. I'd like for you to save him. Murray will be dead in, oh, one-to-three days. You would be wise to take the opportunity to convince Liam his talents are better suited to a different field of genetic biology. Curing Alzheimer's perhaps."
Miller shook his head once more, this time genuinely.
"He's brave, stubborn...not the sorta kid to let himself be bullied out of what he wants by a terrorist thug."
He quite literally spat the words, Ignoble deftly stepping out of phlegm range. They didn't doubt Miller, if Liam was anything like his father he'd be quite stubborn indeed. "Then be authoritarian. Put your foot down. You pay his tuition, you tell him to change his focus or come home."
"And when he asks why, what am I supposed to tell him?"
Ignoble shrugged, placing their back against the exterior door. "The truth. Mundanes who try to mold or master the Variance are my enemies, and you don't want him to wake up with a slit throat."
The vigilante paused, a chuckle escaping them."Or so I assume."
The pistol remained trained on Miller until the door closed between them, Ignoble disappearing into New Haven East. They had sent a clear message and could now do nothing but hope that it would be heeded. If not things became much simpler.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------May 15, 2080 - 7:04 PM - The Shanty
Redecker Stadium was supposed to have been the nucleus of a great change in the Shanty, the beginning of a revolution in body and soul.
An industrialist by the name of Thomas Redecker had earmarked millions and millions of dollars in his will for the building of gyms, the establishment of little league teams, an overhaul of the local parks, a gift from beyond the grave to the poor people of the Shanty. And at the center of it all was to be his stadium, a place where future Olympians would be cheered on by their peers.
After thirty years there was precious little to show for it, the money siphoned away by greedy contractors and con artists, a flock of vultures all snagging their piece of the carcass before flying away. The only remnant of Redecker's gift was his stadium, unfinished and rotting at the foundational level. There were no crowds, no young athletes racing towards a brighter future. The only people in Redecker Stadium were New Haven's favorite fighter pilot and her staff.
"Point zero nine eight, one thousandth less than your last go.""Shoot, really? I could've sworn I was going faster than that!"
The young woman holding the timer nodded. Breakneck scowled at the offered tablet from behind a pair of aviators, trying to will the numbers into correcting themselves. But there was no point in arguing with the sensors. They were custom-made for someone of her speed, capable of clocking something moving at Mach 10. Operator error was also out, her people had set the system up dozens of times by now."That's still barely above my average."
A lackey materialized as if out of thin air with water bottle in hand, Breakneck taking and draining it in seconds before tossing it back with a nod of thanks.
"Boss, you're moving at around triple the cruising speed of the average jet, I think you're doing fine."
That particular speaker was Emma, Bn's personal assistant. Her duties included arranging interviews, organizing accommodations, sorting through crank calls, paying bills and generally making sure her boss wasn't biting off more than she could chew. She generally failed in that final task but the attempt was appreciated nonetheless."Emma I wasn't even twenty-three when I broke the sound barrier. I've been running for nearly a quarter-century, I should be past cruising speed!"
The scowl had softened into a look of genuine disappointment. "Well past it."
There had been a time where Bn would have been content to rest on her laurels but breaking her own land speed record just wasn't going to cut it. She needed to go faster, for the sake of her pride! Subsonic was shameful, supersonic was passé. Hypersonic was her new goal, Mach 5 her calling.
The upsetting thing was that it wasn't a question of effort but reality. BN wasn't even winded after her hundred meter dash, she just could not go any faster. Her Variance limited itself to a measly three times the speed of sound and until she figured out how to overclock herself she'd be stuck in the slow lane.
"Ma'am you're gonna wanna check this out!"
Bn caught the helmet tossed her way by another member of staff, shutting out all background chatter by slipping on the familiar bit of headgear. It was already tuned to police frequencies, overlapping streams of information collected and parsed near-instantaneously. There was a serious blaze burning in Midtown with Scourge fleeing the scene, pursued by Sear, Grassbones and the Murder Express.
And of course none of the vigilantes were doing a thing to help those trapped inside the chemical-laced bonfire."Apparently it's amateur hour for Pariah Underground. Dispatch this is Breakneck, I'm headed for the lab."
She wasted no time in speaking to her team, trusting them to pack everything away as she geared up. Breakneck wearing her civvies in the middle of stadium one moment and midair the next, coming down in her combat gear. Her running leap had carried her above the tenements of Shantytown and into the maze of creole cottages that made up the Bywater. She weaved her way through the evening crowds and around moving cars, the momentum of objects around so slow as to be functionally non-existent.
She was there before the dispatcher had even relayed her intentions, coming to a dead stop next to the pink-haired stranger. "I'm going straight for the source of the flames, working my way out from there.
The Omni-Lens built into her various flashed all sorts of dire warnings, known carcinogens this and arsenate leak that, the kinds of warnings she'd have been more worried about had she not been immune to poisons. "I'd stay out of the smoke!"
And then she was gone, disappearing into the furnace in search of the weak and desperate. @Lewascan2