Officer Richard Walker woke at 6:00 AM. It was the middle of summer in 2010. He showered, ate breakfast, said goodbye to his wife and two children, and drove to work. The route to work was shorter now, the repair crews had finally managed to scrape the pieces of the invasion force’s mothership off of and out of the roads between Walker’s house and the substation of the Meta Human Unit he worked at. New York was finally recovering from another xeno invasion. He parked and headed towards the glass and steel building with the NYPD emblem above the door, passing by the monument to the soldiers and police officers who had made their stand there. Too many of these monuments around nowadays. Too many tragedies.
He entered, dropped by his desk, and grabbed the clean mug waiting for him. The shift before his had already performed the sacred coffee preparation ritual for the office, so Walker grabbed himself a cup. He greeted his fellow officers, then returned to his desk. There was always paperwork to fill out in any government job. Always.
He was about to dive headlong into his ever growing to do pile when someone walked up to his desk. He looked up. She was young, no more than twenty or so. She was very good looking, to the point where Walker suspected she was a super of some kind. It was the MHU after all. The playful smile she wore was also a good indicator.
Unless they wore a costume or had an obvious power going on, there was nothing to distinguish a super powered officer of the MHU from an ordinary one in terms of uniform. That way, the criminals didn’t know who to shoot first, as only supers with some response to bullets wore a costume anyway. People respected the MHU, there had been one active in the US in some capacity since the seventeen hundreds. She’s one of the new interns. Chrissy, that’s her name. Chrissy Marshall.
“Hey Officer Walker,” she said, slapping down a manila folder full of papers down onto his desk. “I know you’re, like, a week from retirement, but Cap’s got one more alien related thing for you.”
He sighed, reaching for the folder. He opened it, skimmed through the papers, and frowned at what he saw within. “Something wrong?” asked Chrissy. He looked up, realizing that she was still there.
“Yeah, this doesn’t look like a Bear attack at all. Besides, I thought we had that all wrapped up at this point. If it weren’t for the bullet wounds, I’d say this was a feral attack.”
Bear was the catchall term for the most recent alien invaders. Though alien, like humans they came in a variety of appearances. Aliens had their own names for themselves, but they were invariably unpronounceable to humans. Therefore, humans called them by what they most resembled. Bears looked more like bears than anything else a human could recognize. Sort of. If you squinted just right.
Just because the invasion had been defeated did not mean that every Bear soldier died instantaneously. Though that would have been nice. Most surrendered, some went underground in the city, attacking any human they came across. The military, police, and independent heroes spent months rounding them up, killing when necessary, capturing for later ransom or exchange if they could.
Bears had a thing against human blood. Something about it being a hallucinogen to them and not a fun one. They preferred snapping bones and general blunt force trauma to projectiles and gouging. The body Walker observed on the report had been viciously hacked at and shot.
How do they know this is alien? His question was answered when he turned the page. There was a knife found in the body, nothing of Earth. There was also writing on the walls in blood near where it happened. The writing was also in some bizarre alien script. Either a psycho is on the loose, or more likely this is alien. Then he saw what the forensics lab had come up with: alien biological compounds. They had no idea what they were, but it wasn’t from Earth. Well, that’s one question out of the way.
He looked up again. Chrissy was still there. “I take it you’re with me on this one?”
She smiled. “Yep. Cap’s philosophy seems to be that experience is the best teacher.”
“Right then. I’ve got some ideas. To the Batmobile.”
They drove through the city in Walker’s patrol car. The day was shaping up to be great, no clouds, a good temperature, the wind wasn’t too bad. This of course did not prevent traffic. There was still construction and repairs going on all throughout the city to various buildings.
Walker and Chrissy were waiting at a light, having been there for two cycles while people ahead of them went. They had engaged in small talk for a while, things pertaining to the case, and so on, but had since lapsed into silence.
“So,” began Walker, “I’m guessing you have a power of some kind.”
“Am I that obvious?” she asked.
“That or you won the genetic lottery, in which case you probably would be modeling, rather than doing grunt police work. Kind of a tip off.”
“Jesus, I’m a trickster, I should be better at this. So, yeah, I actually have a very minor shape shifting ability. Like, super minor.” Shape shifting. That explains it. He gave her a sidelong glance, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. She caught the glance, gave a somewhat sheepish smile, and said, “What? Do you think it’s easy being hot? People always stare, guys hit on me constantly, it’s a nightmare.”
“No, sorry, I had no idea. Truly yours is a life of suffering.”
“Indeed,” she said, nodding sagely. “Anyways, my main thing is vision manipulation. Also somewhat minor, I’m no Facade. ”
“Just get out of the Academy then?”
“Despite appearances, I’m actually just out of high school.” Bullsh- wait, shape shifter. “I am actually planning on going on to the Law Enforcement Academy this year. Felt like it would be good to get some real world experience, since I’d didn’t join the Academy in high school like most.” The light finally turned green, and they started moving once again, this time making the light. “While we’re on the topic of my inexperience, this has been bugging me for a while. Why is Cap called Cap? I can’t get anyone who knows to tell me his name, they always just laugh.”
Walker laughed and said nothing.
“Really?” she said. Walker continued to laugh. “You’re really going to do this too? Alright, fine, whatever.” She threw up her hands in frustration.
They came to another red light. He looked at her with a grin and said, “No one ever told you why you don’t get to know his name?”
“I know he’s not a super, so I don’t know why he’s in charge in the first place.” Oh, please don’t be one of those arrogant newbies. Me and every non powered person in the Unit could put you into a coma. How do you think we got our jobs in the first place?
“What we have going on here is a meritocracy kind of system. You get to be the head of your unit based on skill, not whether you ejaculate the most lethal boiling venom or what have you.” Once again they started moving. Walker returned his attention to the road. “If the person doesn’t have a cape name, they go by rank only. Lieutenant, Cap or Captain, or even Sergeant in some cases. It would actually considered quite disrespectful to call Cap by his real name.”
She digested this. “You see, this is why I took this opportunity. I doubt they would teach this kind of stuff in, like, a classroom or something.”
“I couldn’t tell you. It’s been about twenty five years since I stepped foot in a classroom.”
They continued further into the city. Chrissy eventually asked, “Also, what are we doing?”
“Going to the area around the scene of the crime.”
“Yeah, I know that. I’m capable of reading street signs. But the guy’s in forensics have already been all over there, and they have techie gear made specifically for that. You may recognize techie gear as better than your eyeballs at this kind of stuff.”
“You have much to learn, young grasshopper. You read the part where is said no one reported the murder as it happened, same as me, right?”
“That doesn’t mean there were no witnesses at all.” She looked confused. “You may recognize the results of a recent alien invasion right there.” He pointed to a skyscraper missing its top several levels, the top a jagged grey ruin. “Or there.” One wall of another building was covered in construction equipment and workers repairing it. “Or anywhere else.” He made a vague gesture to the whole of their surroundings.
“So what?” You are going to have to learn to read between the lines quickly if you want to go into this field.
“We’ve been busy. Bears were our number one priority, and as such the underworld has been less contained than it should have been. Said underworld is notoriously hesitant to alert the cops to their activities unless they have some profit in it.”
“So you think there might be a criminal, or someone connected to a criminal, saw what happened. So do we just grab someone off the streets and interrogate them?”
“Only if you want nothing but lies. I have…an associate, who might, might, know something. It’s a long shot, but I’ve been meaning to talk to him about another matter anyways.”
Chrissy had a look of…apprehension? Shock might be closer. She said, “So you know some criminal guy, and just hang out with him? Just like some old buddy or something?”
“Buddy might be a bit of a stretch. But more to the point, I think the term ‘the lesser of two evils’ applies here.”
She nodded hesitantly. Walker continued, “You need evidence to put away the big threats. That how our legal system works. It’s the same for every person, no matter what. It keeps the man, which we are a part of, from tossing anyone we damn well please into prison. If you want information, the underworld is a great place to start, if you need answers about clandestine affairs.”
They drove on in silence. A bit tense, isn’t she? She thought this was all glorious, put away all the bad guys, and rescue the city, keeping your hands clean all the while. The drove up to a bar, a hole in the wall looking worn, with beer advertised on every available square inch of the exterior. It being the morning, the bar was closed. Or so it appeared to the common observer. They parked at the back of the bar.
He turned to Chrissy once again. “Alright, an important thing before we go in. Don’t say or do anything stupid. I cannot stress that enough. If you think you won’t be able to contain yourself, watch the car. If you can, follow me.”
He got out of the car, followed by Chrissy. They walked up to the back door. Walker called out, “Hey Jude! You there? It’s me, Walker.”
“Hey Jude? Seriously?” Chrissy was struggling and failing to keep a smile off her face.
“Yes, and if you mention that song to him this will get infinitely more difficult. So don’t. Though I applaud you for knowing the reference in the first place. Doesn’t make me feel quite so old.”
“My parents are big fans of the Beatles. They’re old too.”
He was spared the need to think of a retort when a man walked to the doorway from inside the bar. He was a short, portly man, round faced and balding with stringy brown hair. He took them in at a glance, then motioned them to enter.
It appeared you could judge the book by its cover in the case of the bar. It was exactly as beat up and cheap as the exterior advertised. There were a couple old tube TV’s, all but one of which were off, on the walls. The other was muted, currently playing the news. Jude gestured for them to sit at a grungy table. Walker sat in a wobbly old chair, Chrissy to his right, and Jude across from him.
“Good morning. So, what brings you to my humble place of business, Officer Walker and the lovely…” he looked to Chrissy expectantly.
Say Officer or he won’t take us seriously. Walker was mentally kicking himself for not preparing Chrissy beforehand. He’d honestly expected her to refuse to sully her hands with this business. Too late for that, now she would have to take care of herself.
“Officer Marshall,” said Chrissy, in a somewhat tense voice. YES! Now watch your tone.
Walker kept his face neutral. “We were wondering if you’d heard anything about a murder that happened in this area late last night. We are beginning to suspect that the perpetrator was…not from around here.”
“Was this perpetrator ursine or perhaps something else?” Testing just how much we know, seeing just how little he can tell us. Jude was an information broker, just because he took government payments didn’t mean he wouldn’t take the money of others as well.
“Something else. We believe that the Bears have been fully contained, and this killing wasn’t in their style. No one we know of saw anything, but there are some who trust the force to handle these matters…less than they should.”
Jude was silent for a moment, with a contemplative look about him. Finally, “When did the force even find this out, I wonder?” Testing how on the ball we are.
Before Walker could respond, Chrissy said evenly, “And I wonder why you are so curious. You of all people should know it’s rude to pry.”
Jude smiled. “Yes, forgive me. There are two things I can tell you.” Well that panned out quite nicely. “One, an employee of mine observed an unfamiliar figure exiting the premise where this murder happened. He described it as thin, grey, and slightly shorter than the average man. It possessed six limbs, and appeared to be able to walk on two, four, or all. It made clicking sounds as long as my employee observed it. As well, my employee observed blood on its…hands, for lack of a better word.”
OK Chrissy, don’t ask how he knew this or what the “employee” was doing there at that time of night. She remained silent, and Walker nodded to Jude to continue. You know? Maybe she’s smarter than I gave her credit for.
“The other is from an acquaintance of mine. She voiced concern over…certain noises and sightings near her place of work. These may be connected to what you seek. I can give you her work address if you like.”
“That’ll do. Thank you. And, also, there’s the small matter of what happened at the docks two days ago.”
Jude grimaced as he wrote an address on a notecard he pulled from his pocket. “Yes, please send the good Captain my apologies. My associates were…clumsier than they should have been.” He produced a flash drive. “This should help clear things up.” Walker took both the flashdrive and the notecard. “If there is nothing else?”
“Thank you, and no. We’ll be on our way now.”
They got up and Jude escorted them to of the door. They said their goodbyes, Jude shut the door after them, and Chrissy and Walker returned to their car.