The M Legacy
Chapter: 14/ Do the Children Lead?
Finally! Teruo thought, crashing into his chair at home and pulling out his small robot from his pocket. "Okay," he said in an eager tone, hitting the power button on his computer and snatching up a cable. "Give me everything you've got."
After his computer finished booting, he plugged the two together. At once a download screen came up, depositing the mounds of files into a secure folder. Licking his lips, he gave a cackle and quickly accessed it.
You know, in spite of everything that I already know about what the CHC is hiding, this is fun!
He couldn't help it, given his oft-cited mischievous nature, and right now it seemed to be paying big dividends.
This is quite the gold mine here, he thought, giving a quick glance through the first handful of files, picking out keywords and mentally filing them away for later devouring and digestion. He frowned. I'm not sure where to start now. I…
The knock on his door caused the boy to give a startled cry and hit the desktop button to hide what was there—crude, but quick and easy for the eye to miss if they weren't searching for anything particular. Spinning around in his chair, he saw John poke his head in
"Sorry about that. Just wanted to see what you wanted for dinner."
"Anything is fine!" Teruo said, wishing that he didn't sound as desperate to get rid of the man. He gave him a nervous smile, wondering if he looked half as suspicious as he felt he did. If his face betrayed anything, John missed it, much to his surprise—and paranoia. John simply nodded. "All right. I'll come up with something easy then and let you know when it's ready. I've got some work to take care of, so if you could keep it quiet tonight…"
"Not a problem," Teruo promised, raising one hand in salute. With this much info to dig through, I'll be sure to be as quiet as a cadaver. "Scout's honor."
Smirking, John returned the salute and closed the door with a click. Spinning back around, Teruo returned to his work.
"Okay," he said, bringing back up the last page he was on. "Speak to me your secrets, oh creepy and super-secret government organization…"
He was going to have so much fun today.
"The Chief of Cabinets called again," said Kelly Coleman to Daria as she hung up her cell phone. Daria glanced up at her, a dark look on her face.
"He can wait," she said. Just like the five million and one reporters and officials who all want a piece of my time. "Do we have a statement prepared to address the public with?"
"We have a draft," Kelly said, handing her a computer pad. "It's due to be given at six pm sharp."
"At least we have a little bit of leeway to edit it," Daria sighed with relief, checking the time. The clock read 4:15. Returning the pad, she got up from her chair. "What about the news reports? What are they saying?"
"Just our initial statement about how we are investigating the attack, but still don't have a suspect." She pressed her lips into a thin line. "It won't look good."
"Of course not," Daria said in an irritated tone. In this game, when one don't have an instant capture or even a lead it never looked good. "Does the investigation department have anything from the footage?"
"No," Kelly replied with a shake of her head. "They insist that the heroi is not in any of our archives, local or federal."
"I hate to find a silver lining in all this," grimaced Daria as though she had a bad taste in her mouth, "but that actually makes us look better if the higher ups screwed the pooch on this and give us nothing to work with." She massaged her forehead. "Only one week in and already things are going to hell on me…"
Kelly, in a rare moment of breaking with formality, placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "We'll get this worked out, ma'am. Don't worry."
Daria gave her a tired smile. "It's times like this I wish I was still a field agent." She sighed heavily and the formality between them returned. "Anyway, now that I have some spare moments, what have we got?"
"The school's Hall Monitor report," Kelly said. "This one sees like it's going to work the best in our favor. It's responsible for holding back the attacker and driving him off, and since it was our department that suggested placing them in schools for just such an occasion…"
"A wonderful silver lining backed by the lack of casualties," Daria said with a touch of sarcasm. "What about the Companion? What is its report?"
Kelly tapped on her data pad. "Elevated levels of activity in James' Q-Field, but it's consistent with a normal human's adrenaline rushes and the fight-or-flight response. Nothing out of the ordinary that would suggest that he's a danger to the school or anyone else. Guardian Orbs are going over the area to corroborate the two reports, so we should be getting something shortly from them. We're estimating one to two hours before the final reports are in."
"Cutting it awfully close to our live statement," Daria observed. "But there's not much we can do about that. All right, keep me informed. What about the child himself?"
"He seems to be…" Kelly was cut off by the ringing of Daria's cell phone. Sighing irritably, she glanced at it, and her eyes widened noticeably.
"Hold that thought," she said, lifting her index finger in a just a minute gesture. "Director Foster here," she said upon hitting the call button. Kelly listened intently, trying to hear what was being said, but Daria turned her chair around, preventing her from hearing much more than garbled sounds. "I understand," Daria continued, and Kelly noted a strained tone to her voice. "When will he arrive?"
He? Kelly raised an eyebrow.
"He's arriving in fifteen minutes?" Daria shifted in her seat. "All right. I'll meet him." There was the sound of a beep and Daria turned around, pocketing her phone.
"Problems?" Kelly asked tentatively, seeing the look on the woman's face. Daria looked up at her.
"Certain eyes are looking our way now because of this debacle with the Grey case. They've sent an Epsilon Sentinel here."
"An Epsilon…" Kelly Coleman felt her mouth dry up at the name. "They're taking him seriously, aren't they?"
Daria scribbled out a note and stood up. "Call your brother and have him contact Amanda Baker before meeting us on the roof." Folding the note, she handed it to Kelly. "This is the message he's to give her."
Kelly nodded, accepting the note. "I understand."
The helicopter had just begun its descent when Kelly saw Agent Coleman approach from the rooftop's entrance. She nodded to him in greeting.
"Did you contact her?" she asked over the noise of the blades. Her brother nodded.
"She wasn't happy, but she understands the gravity of the situation. She will cooperate."
Of course she would, all things considered. Kelly swallowed anxiously before returning her attention to the copter. An Epsilon Sentinel. She still had trouble believing it. She had never met one before during her ten years working at the CHC with Daria.
Then again, Clark City hasn't seen much action until recently. I hope that this isn't an omen from the gods.
Epsilon Sentinels. The name Epsilon itself was already difficult for her to feel comfortable about. The line dividing heroi from normal humans was paper thin enough already and Epsilon's were something that shouldn't be, but were; non-heroi who gained heroi-like capabilities through various means, be it technology or something else—lightning strikes, radiation exposure, meteors. They lacked the genetic mutation that made heroi what they were, and yet, somehow, they existed. They were an anomaly. No one knew why or how and it made certain people nervous. Heroi were one thing as they could be identified early. An Epsilon—or even a Gamma—could be anyone.
Epsilon Sentinels are the refined version created by the government and intended for the sole purpose of fighting fire with fire in the event that all standard means of controlling a heroi failed.
Kelly shuddered. If they think James Gray is dangerous enough to send one in… She didn't dare let the thought finish, but all the same, she felt sick to her stomach thinking about what could happen to not just James Grey, but anyone even remotely associated with him.
The helicopter finished its descent and as the blades began to slow, the door opened and out stepped a tall, powerfully built, bearded, dark-skinned man. Kelly blinked, a bit surprised by how…charming he looked, smiling at them and adjusting the tie to his suit. He approached them and held out his hand for Daria to shake. The woman took it cautiously and he clasped it companionably.
"Hello director," he greeted. "My name is Bruce Kane. I'm from Federal Security Services, Section Cross Guard. My superiors should have contacted you about my arrival…?"
"They did," Daria nodded. "Although I would have appreciated it if they gave me some warning when the Gray Case was being reopened. When the report went out, no one in the upper echelons seemed to make so much as a peep about it."
"I'm afraid that there's a great deal going on that changed that," Kane said, giving her an apologetic look. "I'm also afraid that in the interests of national security, I cannot tell you any more than that. My job is to observe the boy and judge for myself whether he is an immediate danger to the current global climate."
"If he is?" she asked, half-regretting asking the question.
"I think you already know the answer to that," Kane replied. Daria reluctantly agreed mentally. No doubt the Sentinel knew perfectly well what everyone already suspected James Grey was. Given the potential risks involved, there was no way that he would just let him continue roaming around.
"Very well," she said, inclining her head toward the roof's entrance. "If you would follow me…"
Daria opened the door to an observation room and she, Kelly, Agent Coleman, and Kane entered. Kane immediately made his way over to the window and drew to a halt, folding his arms behind his back. Before him, sitting against a padded, white wall was James Grey, staring down at his arms, folded across his knees.
"How long has he been here?" he asked.
"Two hours since the incident at the school," Daria replied. "He came quite willingly and without resistance."
"That's good. And there is no sign of his powers activating since the case was reopened?"
"We're going over his Companion's reports with a fine toothed comb. So far everything points to elevated Q-Field activity, but nothing more than that."
"And an online report about two people jumping into the air in this city yesterday isn't included in any of its files?" Kane glanced at Daria, who looked at him with abject confusion.
"I'm…I'm sorry?" she could only stammer out. "I'm afraid that I haven't…"
"There's no need to apologize. One of our net sweepers only came across a rumor late last night. It seems to have disappeared since the initial discovery and we haven't been able to track down anything else like it, except in other cities. The timing with the school attack seems a bit coincidental, but it could be just that; coincidence and rumor. Heroi aren't uncommon in cities after all."
"I…see." Daria glanced at Kelly, who immediately turned her attention to her data pad and began typing out inquiries. "If you would like, we can provide you with any and all information we have regarding James' activities within…"
"I have no need for that, director. My apologies, though I thank you for the offer." Kane tilted his head to one side, narrowing his eyes. "He looks afraid, doesn't he?"
Daria turned to look at James, feeling somewhat flustered by Kane's personality. "I remember being his age," she said. "I was afraid of places like this then too."
"Your profile doesn't mention you being in a prison," Kane said matter-of-factly.
"I visited one of the old jails from the late Bronze Age when I was a child," she replied. "It was a museum trip."
She shuddered, remembering how much she hated the sight of the place then; all cold, crumbling stone, rusted iron bars, and burnt-out anti-heroi force fields. A wax statue of a heroi lying on the ground, a starved, horrified expression on his face—a replica of the reputed last inmate of Juniper Penitentiary—stood out most prominently in her mind.
Kane gave a dry chuckle. "Heroi or not, you have a point. He would be scared." Changing one hand into the other, he gave the boy a contemplative look before continuing. "I would like to speak to him in person, if you don't mind."
Kelly paused in her queries to look at Daria. She nodded.
"Very well," she said, turning to Agent Coleman. "Show the man inside."
Jamie sat in a cell…or rather a room of some kind. Unlike most prison cells that he saw on TV or read about in stories, this one did not have a cage of iron bars or a wall of stone overlooking shark-infested waters. The room was simple white cushions with an array of what appeared to be speakers sitting atop the plush walls, just below the ceiling. All were aimed in his direction.
At least, they look like they're aimed at me, he thought, shifting on the floor. The room was void of any other features save for the speakers and cushioned walls…save for a solitary mirror. Nothing else. No bed, no chairs. Not that Jamie was complaining, but the blandness of the room, with the only thing interesting to look at being the mirror, had a bit of an oppressive feel to him.
He leaned forward, wrapping his arms around himself, doing his best to not look at the mirror. The emptiness of the room that it showed him was unnerving. He tried to focus on something else…anything else. Unfortunately, the only things that dominated his thoughts at the moment involved Monster, and the mysterious person who threatened him with consequences if he didn't meet them in the park after school.
Touching the belt loop where Beth normally rode for comfort, he sincerely hoped that the choice of 'after school' meant any time after school, and not immediately afterward.
What if… What if I end up staying here for a while? Like, way longer than he's willing to put up with? What will he do if I can't show up? Oh crap. I've got to find some way get out of…
The wall opened, catching Jamie's attention as a tall, dark-skinned man entered. He gave Jamie an easy-going smile that was so white it seemed to shine like the moon.
"Um…hi?" Jamie said, getting up warily. A part of him wondered if he could get around the man and possibly trigger his powers so he could escape, but the idea died very quickly as the door closed shut behind him.
"Hey little man," the man greeted in return. "My name is Bruce Kane. I hope you don't mind if I talk to you for a little bit."
As long as it's quick, Jamie thought. "Are you the boss?"
The man raised an eyebrow and chuckled. "No," he said. "Though you could almost say that, in a way, I am. I hold a great deal of power that I am authorized to use in regards to you."
Jamie's eyes dropped, frowning. He suddenly had an idea that what he said now or in the next few minutes would determine his fate.
"Okay… What about… What about my parents? Are they all right? Do they know…?" He swallowed, trying to clear his mind of every worry that threatened to well up inside him. "I…didn't think to call them. Beth usually does that but everything was so crazy…" He shook his head. "Beth! What about Beth? My Companion…"
"All three are fine," Kane said, kneeling down in front of the boy so that they were more at eye level. He actually wasn't aware of whether or not James' parents were aware or 'fine', nor did he know the details regarding his Companion Device, but he assumed that a comforting lie was useful in this scenario.
He named his Companion, he noted.
Jamie breathed a sigh. "Well, that's a relief. Mom will probably be mad that I'm stuck in jail, but at least there's a good reason for it. Uh…I think." He looked around him, gauging his cell. No matter how he looked at it, it didn't seem like the kind of place that would be able to hold a heroi that was determined to get out. "I'll probably be grounded anyway…" he continued, furrowing his brow.
How much longer is this going to go on?
Daria folded her arms over her chest as she listened to the exchange between the two. So far it seemed to be a fairly standard interrogation with the Epsilon Sentinel playing the role of the 'good cop' and just trying to get to know the child.
"He's…not at all what I expected someone like him to be," she said aloud.
"I'm sorry?" Kelly asked, wondering if Daria's statement was directed at her.
"Hm? Oh, I was just thinking out loud. I've heard so many rumors about these E.S. personnel and he goes completely against the grain." She frowned. "For now anyway."
Kelly returned her attention to the scene before them. "Do you think he'll…execute James?"
"I'd say that there's a strong possibility. Maybe not now. He'll probably have to interview his friends and family first after this to form a judgment but…" She sighed. "That kid really got the short end of the stick when he met Adam Bishop in the park. He'd probably just have been normal if not for that. It's not his fault."
"No ma'am," Kelly shook her head in agreement. "It isn't."
Daria wasn't sure whether her assistant was simply agreeing with her due to formality, or because of their friendship and she really did agree. Once upon a time, she would have said that it was her own opinion, but the difference between their positions changed things. Setting the matter aside, she continued to watch the scene before them play out, with Kane continuing to draw out James so as to determine what his ultimate fate would be. It made her sick to her stomach and caused her to wonder if Amanda Baker and her daughter would get out of this without being noticed.
Her hands tightened around her, thinking of the woman. She didn't like her, but…none of this seemed right.
The junkyard of Clark City was well-known to the city's youth. A maze of wrecked cars, broken appliances, mountains of debris that was said to stretch back across the Ages, from Gold all the way to the present day. Although today it saw little of the kind of action that caused such a buildup for the place to be given its own geographic features, it still grew through the deposit of waste and broken material that followed in the wake of any city.
For Clark City's youth, none of the top layer interested them in the least. It was what lay below that top layer that mattered—mattered enough that the place was locked down and well-guarded around the clock. Mattered enough for a great number of Clark City's youth to attempt to breach its defenses as a 'coming of age' ritual, or, in a fair number of cases, just to have something from the old Ages. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on one's opinion—the secrets of the junkyard remained well-kept and, aside from one incident fifty years prior with the city's water supply, undisturbed.
Or so it was believed.
"We'll never have a better time," Kira remembered Monique saying once during a time that felt so long ago. She glowered at the gate where a man in a blue uniform sat. He looked angry. Kira could only guess why, though she was certain that being here was one of them.
Ignoring the incessant buzzing from her cell phone—her mother no doubt, as she was the only who tried to reach her since the incident at school—Kira began to walk along the fence, dragging a finger along it, her invulnerability brushing off the electricity that attempted to ward her off.
To this date, she had yet to find a place that could keep her out.
The round of buzzing ended and Kira sighed with relief.
I should just shut the thing off, she thought, retracting her hand from the fence. Nah. That would be a bad idea. She'd only get angrier.
The buzzing resumed again almost as soon as it started, and Kira rolled her eyes, returning her hand to the fence and ignoring the sparks that showered down around her. I sent her a message telling her I was all right and that I'd be home for dinner. What more does she want?
She wished that her mother would stop calling her phone so that she could let Malcolm know to futz with the sensors. She could get in whether they were on or not, but as long as they were on, simply flying in would cause too many alarms to go off. As a result, she had to use an alternative approach, one that, by accident or design, was supplied by the very nature of the junkyard.
"There we go," she smiled, her hand disappearing into seemingly nothingness. Found the gap.
Stepping forward, she phased through the fence as though it weren't even there and reappeared on the other side amidst mountains of broken down vehicles. Kira nodded to herself in satisfaction.
"Home sweet home," she said almost sarcastically. Well, not exactly home, but it's better than what I have back there.
Wasting no time, she sprinted forward, vanishing around a number of piled cars—old hover models from the Silver Age that had once been a pristine white. She cast her eyes around her as she ducked this way and that, trying to find a familiar landmark. Of course, it was pointless to do so. Yesterday's trash would always end up being buried beneath another layer of garbage, and she couldn't afford to come here often.
Still, there was one individual that she could trust to help her find her way, provided that she found him.
Turning a corner, she slowed and glanced behind her. The fence, though still visible to her, now seemed to be an eternity away. True to form, the junkyard was working its magic. She was going to have to be very careful from this point on. Returning her attention to the path ahead of her, she bit back a curse.
"Wonderful," she grumbled, settling for something less offensive. Narrowing her eyes as she scanned the piles of broken-down machinery around her. She was now in a different section of the junkyard, and in one of the most dangerous. War droids, scrapped doomsday devices marked with all manner of warning labels from at least a dozen mad scientists from the Silver Age… She shuddered a little. She didn't think any of what she saw was at all still operable, but there were always exceptions to the rule. She herself learned that the hard way when she first came here.
Eying them cautiously, she continued forward, feeling an unsettling sensation of being watched. Turning another corner, she gasped in surprise and fell into a fighting stance, this time swearing for real. She caught herself at the last moment, and carefully relaxed her arms, heart still pounding in her chest. Narrowing her eyes she strode forward to a broken heap of metal that looked as though it resembled a giant, humanoid robot. Whatever it was, it had been pulverized beyond total recognition, with what may have been an abdomen bearing a massive, inward boring dent. Kira didn't have to look to know that there was a gaping hole on the other side.
After all, she had made it herself.
Jumping up slightly, she landed above the dent and looked down to find exactly what she was looking for; the head of the great beast. Its electric eye was empty and lifeless with a long, spidery crack crossing its surface. She didn't trust it though.
"Keep running, Kira! It's getting closer!"
She shut her eyes against the memory, willing it away before reopening them, bringing her glare harshly down on the robot's head.
"You played dead the first time I came through here," she said, feeling her heart racing again, though this time for an entirely different reason. Kneeling down and touched its surface before balling her hand into a tight fist. Rearing her arm backward, she drove her fist forward with all her might, smashing it through its thick, armored surface. The robot's body jerked and the ruins of its limbs rose slightly as though in one last bid for resistance, and then fell back to earth. Kira withdrew her fist, and smashed it into the machine's head one more time, feeling a great sense of satisfaction with that last punch. She sat there for a moment, breathing slowly and deeply, basking in the fire burning in her chest before she withdrew her hand one last time, flexing her fingers and blowing off flecks of rust from her skin.
"About as tough as I remember," she grumbled, frowning at her now dirt-encrusted knuckles. "But I'm strong now. I don't have to worry about things like you anymore."
"Kira! Run!" cried a girl with curly brown hair from where she lay, hand stretched out, begging her to keep going. The ground shook and behind her the giant war machine loomed into view, having found its targets…
She ground her teeth together as the last bits of memory stubbornly clung to her much like the rust on her hand. With an effort, she unclenched her hand and dusted it off on her jeans.
"Make enough noise yet?" came a familiar voice. Glancing down from her place on top of the robot's remains she found herself looking at a smaller, humanoid robot wearing a dirty, scuffed pair of overalls. A single electric eye winked red at her and it waved a thin, metal arm at the girl. Hopping down to the ground she strode over to the robot and nodded in greeting.
"Hey Bob," she said. "I'm here to see him."
"I thought so," the machine nodded. "You don't come here for anything else. All right, say no more. I'll take you to the nearest entryway." He gestured for her to follow after him. Kira did so, though she took a moment to cast one last look over her shoulder at the destroyed monstrosity before turning and continuing after Bob.
Should have kicked its head off, she thought regretfully. Next time…
"You're very lucky that I happen to have been in the area," Bob told her as they made their way down the twisting paths, their feet walking along a path worn smooth by a thousand footfalls before theirs. "I was just going to investigate a perimeter breach in the area. Ted thought it was just a pigeon and that's what I'll tell him. You might want to try a different side next time though, or at least not show up for a while. Our security just took a big punch today so he's going to be more paranoid about anything that sets off the alarms."
"I get that," Kira replied. "So how is he doing?"
"No different from last time. He stays in his place, gathering information like usual, sending out hard-light projections to interact with people in the real world… The usual. At least for h-h-h…" Bob paused in his stutter and hit the side of his head with a loud clang. "…him," he finished. "Sorry about that. My processor is getting worn out."
"He'll make you a new one won't he?"
"Can't." Bob shook his mechanical head. "Well, I won't let him. It'd be too suspicious since I'm supposed to be covered by the company that runs this place. If I get 'retired', he'll take me on, so it won't be an issue then." Grabbing his suspenders, he pulled them taught. If it weren't for the complete lack of a face, Kira would have sworn that Bob looked proud. "No one knows this place better than me after all. I'm cheap to keep around for someone like him."
Kira grimaced, not sure if she liked that kind of view.
To each their own, she thought.
"Well, here we are," he said as they came to a stop in front of a broken down bus with a chunk of garbage in front of it. "Oop," he noted. "Looks like Greg covered this entrance up. Hang on." Moving over to the pile of rubbish, he carefully pushed it aside, revealing a dirty plate of metal with a button on top beneath it. Wiping it off, he pressed the button and the plate unfolded outward and a ladder rose up. "There you go, m'lady," Bob saluted. "He'll be waiting for you."
Kira nodded, not even bothering to ask if she was expected. She was certain that he already knew she was there. After all, Malcolm was the reason how she got into the place as often as she did.
"Take care of yourself Bob," she said. Taking hold of the ladder, she began to climb down.
"Have you met with your friend yet?" Bob asked suddenly, causing her to stop in her climb and go rigid.
He always does this…
"No…" she said slowly. It wasn't exactly true, given that she just saw Monique that very morning, but she didn't hang out with her either.
"You should," Bob replied. "She's waiting for you. It's not good to keep people waiting."
"I'll see her eventually," Kira said, resuming her journey. Just not now. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't keep asking me that."
"I'm sorry. I'll be sure to remember that next time."
No you won't, Kira thought, disappearing into the dark hole.
Her cell phone resumed buzzing again as the lid closed over her.