Assemblage – On the Other Side

Miya stood with Nomad and Delta in the observation room. Cyrus and several other officers stood with them, watching as Marcus and two other officers brought Olivia into the interrogation room. They still wore their combat uniforms, though the police had allowed Nomad to put his bandana back in place.

Being in the same room as Cyrus, gave Miya a sense of nervousness. He could thrash her or anyone else in the room without a problem. Do they know I’m a criminal, beyond the Freedom Fighter stuff? I know that’s why Skulker isn’t here. She avoided any questions about her past for that reason.

They had seemed more concerned with Overlord and Freedom Fighter than her during her session, which suited her just fine. They were releasing her on the condition she come in for further questioning. We’ll see. I want nothing more than for Overlord’s head on a spike, I don’t care whose spike it is.

Marcus joined them in the observation room, followed by Pathfinder. Marcus glowered towards Olivia. Where is the interrogator guy?

“So now what?” asked Nomad.

“Be quiet,” snapped Marcus. Prick.

“Marcus, it’s a valid question,” said Cyrus.

“We wait while intel send us another guy, one with a spine,” Marcus spat out. “Waste of time though.” Someone’s in a bad mood. Though from what little Nomad and Delta had told her, this was standard from Marcus. A somewhat thin and bony man, Miya guessed him to be in his late thirties or early forties. His hair certainly showed the signs of going grey.

“And how long will that take?” asked Cyrus.

“Hey, it’s not my fault the intel man lost his nerve,” said Marcus. If this intel guy was the same one who questioned Miya, she could actually believe that. He did not appear to possess the strongest of constitutions, and Olivia was still a hulking feral after all. The other three (Delta, Nomad, and Skulker) seemed to keep forgetting that. As if the random hisses and growls weren’t enough to remind them. Marcus continued, “I told him we’d gas her the second she got aggressive, but the pussy still wouldn’t go. And I don’t know how long until intel gets it act together.”

After a moment, Nomad asked, “And then what happens after?”

Miya eyed Nomad. He’d kind of fallen apart after being told of his girlfriend’s death, but the next day it was as if nothing happened. He seemed tenser afterwards, sure, but even Skulker hadn’t managed to get him to snap, though Miya swore Skulker lived to be annoying. In all fairness, he does have his moments.

Nomad also spent some time in the presence of Membrane. You know, the psycho who apparently can drag up all the bad shit in your past. At least she guessed he was a psycho. Psycho was the slang term for someone whose power had driven them insane. Membrane had probably said disturbing things to Nomad during their little fight. Stoic son of a bitch isn’t he?

“Do you not remember?” asked Marcus contemptuously.

More gently, Cyrus said, “You know, Nomad. After this we’ll send her to the research facility in Houston. If she can be convinced, all the better.”

“WHAT?!” shouted Nomad. What do you mean ‘what’? Houston is where ferals go, doesn’t matter if she named herself or not.

“You knew this was the end result. You and Delta were there to see if this could be resolved peacefully or not,” said Cyrus.

Out of the corner of her eye, Miya saw Pathfinder tap Delta on the shoulder. Miya noted an officer by each door. One stood between her and Marcus, two between Marcus and Nomad. And Cyrus was in the room. Pathfinder had surreptitiously taken a position behind Delta. “I wouldn’t do that miss,” he whispered to her. Delta jumped slightly, but said nothing.

“She’ll be better off there. Food, a place to live, medical care from the vets there,” Cyrus still spoke. He knows what he’s talking about, at least.

“Vets? But what if she doesn’t want to? You’re just going to drag her off there against her will?” OK, maybe vets wasn’t the best term to use here.

“And if we don’t the people will riot again. She did kill over fifty people,” said Cyrus. Holy shit! What? No one mentioned this before. Cyrus added, “That we know of. They saw us take her in, we announced it. We can’t just tell them we just let her go. The only reason she isn’t being charged with many counts of murder is that you can’t really take a feral to trial.”

Nomad looked as though he would argue further. Don’t start a fight in the middle of MHU headquarters. This is literally the exact opposite of the place you want to start a fight in.

Marcus spoke up, putting his phone away. Miya hadn’t been paying attention to him. “Intel is dragging their feet on this one. Saying they need someone of sufficient strength in there.” He muttered something under his breath. What about the two officers in there?

After a quiet moment, Cyrus said, “I’ll do it. What do they want to know?”

“Hey, I’m not sure you can handle it. You managed to botch Freedom Fighter’s containment.” Wow. Just wow.

But Cyrus just said, “OK, let’s just stand here while the desk jockeys argue for the next hour.”

Marcus considered and sighed. “Fine. Don’t mess this up.”

Cyrus left. Nomad looked as though he wanted to punch something (Marcus). Delta’s helmet gave no clue as to what she thought, though Pathfinder behind her was likely the only reason she hadn’t disabled all the lights or something similar.

So they watched as Cyrus questioned Olivia, who seemed almost timid about the whole thing. Especially when he started asking questions specifically about her. Lots of stammering, and Miya only saw one or two instances of Olivia actually making eye contact with Cyrus. She did dodge around how they found me somewhat. Only the presence of the officers restrained Nomad, Delta stood with arms folded.

As Cyrus started to wrap up, Marcus said, “You two, get out.” The two officers in the interrogation room left. Everything was quiet for a bit.

“Ummm, excuse me, um…Cyrus?” asked Olivia from the room.

After a pause, he said, “Yes?”

“What…exactly, is going to happen…now?”

Barely a second passed when Marcus bark out, “So, what are you waiting for? Tell it.” OK, the ‘it’ part is a little excessive.

Cyrus absorbed this. He sighed and said to Olivia, “Your friends will be released, without charges. You will be sent to the feral institute in Houston.”

Olivia immediately stood up and effortlessly snapped the cuffs on her wrists. What the fuck was the point of those things? She opened her mouth to speak, but Marcus must have already given the order for the gas to be released, right after he ordered Cyrus to tell Olivia what would happen.

Nomad broke. “WHAT THE FUCK?” he bellowed as they realized what was happening. He started for Marcus. Bad idea. Really bad idea. She grabbed him before the two officers between him and Marcus got the opportunity to rearrange his face and organs. At least he’s not liquid right now. Delta had begun to move, but stopped herself.

They watched helplessly as Olivia succumbed to the gas. Cyrus maintained a bubble of clean air around himself. Miya knew he was some sort of aerokinetic, but the details escaped her. Yes this sucks, and no, there’s nothing you can do about it that won’t make our situation worse, Nomad.

As some officers entered to drag Olivia off, Marcus turned to them with a sneer beginning to form on his face. God damn it. Nomad almost lunged for him again, Miya maintaining her grip on him. “You may go now,” said Marcus.

The officers showed them out, no one speaking a word. They left them at the front door.

Delta spoke up, “This way, Skulker’s with the car a block from here.” They continued in silence, Miya bringing up the rear. They came to Delta’s car (though Skulker must be the designated driver or something, because I’ve only ever seen him drive it), with Skulker sitting on the hood. Miya heard Delta mutter something under her breath.

Once they were close enough, Skulker waved and shouted out, “HEY, you lot’re finally out. I has obtained much alcohols in preparation!” No one else said a thing, but Skulker appeared to be incapable of picking up on people’s moods. He continued as they reached the car doors, loud rock music blaring from within. “I finally figured out where ya hid the Ipod connector thingy, Delta.”

Nomad opening the car door with more force than necessary. Delta took the shotgun seat, and Miya joined Nomad in the back. Skulker said, “Oh, yeah. Olivia’s flyin’ back I take it?”

“No,” said Nomad.

Skulker was about to start the engine, but stopped at Nomad’s statement. “You gonna explain?”

“Marcus gassed her. He’s sending her to Houston, to that research place,” said Nomad.

Skulker turned in his seat, and watched Nomad carefully. After a moment, he laughed and said, “So I take it we’re regroupin’ at the lair?”

“Yes,” said Delta.

“Alrighty then.” Miya never saw the speedometer go below five over the speed limit the whole time, though from what she knew of Skulker that could have just been his standards operating procedure. No one spoke. Everyone’s alone with their thoughts it seems. Nomad was as angry as Miya had ever seen someone. Delta still wore her helmet, and remained utterly silent. Skulker occasionally sang along to snatches of whatever was coming out of the speakers at the time and drumming on the wheel.

It was well into the afternoon when they pulled up to the lair. They got out, and Skulker said, “Hey hon, you got Marcus’s home address or are we goin’ for HQ itself? I have explosives for almost every occasion. Of course, we could get more up close and personal with him. Gas and matches ain’t expensive.”

Nomad reminded everyone that he was actually a large and imposing figure in his own right by grabbing Skulker by the shoulders and slamming him against the car. “Dumbass. Get your priorities straight. We get Olivia back,” Nomad growled.

Skulker laughed and laughed. He gasped, “Funny, kinda forget you ain’t short, Olivia’s jus’ always loomin’ over ya.”

Nomad was not amused. “I need to hear you say you’re going to help get Olivia back. We just got out of conflict with the authorities. Burning the head of the MHU alive will not help us, no matter how satisfying it may be.”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. We do need to get Olivia back, but I won’t make any promises about later. At least right now.” Skulker grinned at Nomad even as Nomad pinned him to the car.

After a moment, Nomad said, “Good enough,” and released him.

Miya began gathering her things in the meantime. Not much, just an extra set of clothes Delta had loaned her, some toiletries, and the bones she’d scavenged from the F.F. outpost. She’d tried carving into one of them with a knife she’d borrowed from Skulker, only to find that her hands didn’t respond nearly as well as they should have. Of course, they shoved a bunch of electrical crap in there. Hands are somewhat intricate. It still pissed her off that she could barely write.

Delta had removed her helmet after watching Skulker and Nomad’s exchange. She turned to Miya. “What are you doing?” Delta asked.

It was coming up sooner or later. “Packing my things. I’ve got some things to take care of in Arizona.” Someone to beat to a bloody pulp and extract information from. Order doesn’t matter.

“So you’re leaving? Just like that?” asked Delta incredulously.

“Yep,” Miya responded. Nomad and Skulker noticed their conversation.

“Seriously. You’re just going to leave Olivia like that?” said Delta.

“Jesus Christ, people,” exclaimed Miya. “She’s a feral. As much as I hate to admit it about a cop, Cyrus is right! Ferals go to Houston.” She stopped herself from saying that Olivia would have been simply slaughtered in Mexico, regardless of how smart she was. But fuck my ancestors, they’re dead. “They’re not going to dissect her or anything. Hell, she’ll probably get better food than she’s been getting here. And you all failed to mention the whole ‘killing fifty people’ thing. That’s not an insignificant body count.”

Delta said, with icy fury, “You know why we were there at your little prison thing in the first place? Sure as hell wasn’t for you. We were there just for observation and planning. The only reason we went in at all is because Olivia saw that guy beating the shit out of you and insisted we do something. Why do you think it was just me and her, rather than all four of us?”

“Hey, I’m grateful for that, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not going to war with the MHU. I’ve got an axe to grind with some people in Arizona right now. I also don’t want to ‘save’ a murderous feral. Do you not remember all the random hisses earlier today?” said Miya. Stop trying to guilt me, let me go. I know this is shitty, let me go. She’d stopped packing her bag though.

“You didn’t see her afterwards,” said Nomad. “She wasn’t in good shape.”

“Understatement, she was a complete wreck once she fully came around,” added Delta.

“She didn’t even remember anythin’ about what happened for a bit. I do remember her throwin’ up though,” said Skulker. What?

“We couldn’t get her to say a damn thing for almost twenty minutes. It took about that long for her hands to stop shaking. So no, I don’t think she’s murderous,” said Nomad.

Miya grimaced. They were right. But she didn’t want to back down from an argument. Before she could formulate a counter argument, Skulker grinned extra wide. Uh oh.

He said, “Hey, do ya remember bein’ captured?!” Don’t you dare play this fucking card. “Do ya have any…fond memories of it? All the times, not bein’ able to make yer own damn choices, not able to leave a fuckin’ room without someone’s say so. Fuckin’ fantastic, accordin’ to you!”

He started jabbing his finger at her emphatically, practically shouting at this point. He maintained a somewhat maniacal grin. “An’ the sheer, utter, fuckin’ boredom, of sittin’ in a fuckin’ cage with abso-fuckin’-lutely nothin’ to fuckin’ do! Fuck yeah! Why doesn’t everyone go to fuckin’ prison?” He took a breath and slowed down a bit.

“An’ you know somethin’ funny? This is the stupidest fuckin’ conversation I’ve ever fuckin’ had, an’ I once had a legitimate argument with my brothers whether or not it’d be economically viable to shove a soft serve ice cream machine up one’s ass to smuggle it inta prison, cuz you’ve been arrested for the theft of a soft serve machine.” He seemingly stopped.

“Oh, an’ we determined two things,” he said suddenly. “One: once the machine is safely stored in the rectum, it is imperative tha’ ya don’ somehow pull the chocolate lever.” What the fuck is wrong with you? “And two: it’s actually not economically feasible to bring it inta prison.” He finally stopped.

Fuck, he’s right. About Olivia, not the ice cream. She hovered in indecision for a moment. “You’re right,” she said through gritted teeth. I hate being wrong. “Let’s go get her.”

***

This is going well. We’ve only been tracking the wrong truck for THREE FUCKING HOURS. The authorities apparently had begun to wise up to Delta’s methods. She’d found that they were moving Olivia by truck. She didn’t find out till later that Olivia was in one of five different trucks, varying in departure time and route to Houston. Delta eventually found her error and corrected, but by that time the sun had almost set and they were a good way down the wrong road.

Security was tight at the feral institute. They kept some truly terrifying monsters in there, and some activists insisted on trying to free the less scary ones on occasion. If need be, the four of them agreed they would try there as a last resort, but it would be better to get Olivia in transit. They didn’t really have a plan, they didn’t know what kind of security the police would have around Olivia’s truck.

They finally got on the correct road, several hours south of Westward City, just south of Colorado Springs. Then, suddenly, they came across several flashing lights in the distance. They slowed (oh God, we’re rubberneckers), eventually coming to a stop on the side of the road. Ahead of them parked a van with its back doors dented and busted open. A wrecked police car, its hood and roof crumpled as if something large and winged hit it really hard, tilted crookedly in the median.

The cops on the scene waved them forward, they weren’t the only gawkers. That’s right. Just four college age friends for a ride. Nothing to see in here. Delta had something projected on her lap, turned off the second they came near the officers. Otherwise, they all wore street clothes, weapons stored close at hand and out of sight of the outside.

As Skulker drove past, they all exchanged glances. “Ummm…I’m thinkin’ Olivia said ‘fuck that damsel in distress bullshit’ an’ got ‘erself outta there. Jus’ a thought.”

They made record time back north.

***

They pulled up to the lair sometime around midnight. Nomad got out to open the shutter to the interior, Miya following. Need stretch legs. Can’t sit much longer. She helped him lift the shutter. It opened, sliding the rest of the way after going a certain distance upwards. Nomad and Miya turned towards the inside of the lair when something hit Miya hard, and from the grunt to her right, Nomad as well.

Something nearly crushed Miya’s ribcage, forcibly expelling most of the air in her lungs. Oh god what ow bad ahh. “You guys are back! I was so worried.” Olivia. Hurt. Stop. Out of the corner of her eye Miya could see that Olivia had her and Nomad wrapped up in a bear hug. Miya managed a croak/squeak thing.

“Oh, sorry, sorry.” Olivia released them both. Miya nearly collapsed, managing to catch herself. She breathed again. She heard Nomad take a ragged breath. Precious, precious oxygen! Skulker and Delta both stood half outside of the car, laughing at Nomad and Miya. Olivia had withdrawn, looking apologetic. Animal control and the police hadn’t given her a change of clothes, hers were still riddled with bullet holes.

Miya held her ribs, Nomad in slightly better shape. Slightly. Olivia said, “I…I didn’t mean…I’m sorry. I just…” she trailed off, scratching the back of her neck with eyes fixed firmly on the ground. She seemed to be favoring her left leg.

“S’all right,” Miya managed. Nomad nodded, twisting to the left, then right.  They managed to move out of the way for Skulker, still laughing, to drive the car into the lair. Everyone else followed it inside. Olivia’s definitely limping pretty heavily.

They gathered around the front of the car. Skulker got out and immediately said, “Olivia! We were tearin’ ass down twentyfive with guns blazin’ when we found the wreck you left behind. The fuck?!”

“Oh, well, they had me chained up to this cot thing in the back of a van,” said Olivia. “They’d strapped on this gas mask thing,” she mimed a mask over her face. “It had that knockout gas stuff. I woke up. I…don’t think that was supposed to happen. I broke the cot I was chained to and got away. I flew back here, but you guys were gone. I was worried that you’d been arrested or attacked or ran away or something.”

“You were limping. What happened to your leg?” asked Nomad, pointing to her leg.

“Oh…yeah.” She pulled the pant leg of her right leg up to her knee. Her kneecap had been dislocated, a couple inches lower than it was supposed to be, and slightly to the right.

“What the…” said Delta.

Olivia winced, looking embarrassed. “Yeah, I don’t know what happened. I would’ve looked for you guys, but I didn’t want to move around unless absolutely necessary on this, and I was kind of tired from flying all the way back here.”

“The knee’s just dislocated,” said Miya. “Sit down, I think I can fix it.” Olivia sat. She doesn’t seem like she’s in too much pain. Miya knelt and said, “Let’s see if this works.” She rapped her finger on the spot where the kneecap was supposed to be. Hey, it did work! The muscle attached to the kneecap retracted, bringing the kneecap back with it. “There, should be good.” Wait a minute. “How did this happen again?”

“Ummm…I got hit by a car when I escaped,” said Olivia, bending and straightening her leg. Miya got up. To her she said, “Oh, and thanks!” Miya nodded.

Skulker said, “On the highway?” Olivia nodded. “You got hit by a car goin’ seventy, an’ all ya got was a dislocated knee?” Skulker laughed. Who the fuck is that strong?

Olivia mumbled, “I know. I’m weird.”

Immediately, Delta, and Nomad started protesting along the lines of ‘no you’re not’. Olivia appeared startled by the sudden outburst. After they subsided, she mumbled, “Sorry?”

“It’s all right, Olivia. Good to have you back,” said Nomad. The rest, including Miya, gave their various agreements.

“Thanks. You guys…OK?” Olivia said. Aww, she’s blushing a little. Olivia got up and offered the chair to Delta, who declined.

“Some bruises and cuts, nothing too major,” said Nomad. “Delta got grazed on the arm, but some medics patched that up. I know I’m more tired than anything else at this point.”

Skulker said, “Yeah. Soooo, I’m feelin’ like hittin’ the sack, don’ know ‘bout you lot.” Now that they mention it, sleep sounds great. Didn’t sleep to well last night anyway, and it is past midnight. And you know, I might stay here for a bit after all.

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Assemblage – Warpath

“Olivia…” said Nomad warningly. The MHU officers waited for the slightest opportunity to pull the trigger.

Right, don’t look threatening or we all die. She noticed she still hissed with bared teeth (what am I, a cat?). She stopped that, curled up her hands and placed them behind her back, and took a step backwards towards Nomad and Miya. She looked back at them. Nomad’s expression was unreadable behind his bandana; Miya looked furious, even as she dropped her gun and put her hands up to her head. Should I be doing that? People don’t seem to like seeing claws.

“Sorry,” she whispered back.

She could try to fly away, but that would mean leaving Miya and Nomad alone with hostile, heavily armed officers. As well, they would probably shoot her. A lot, and at close range. She’d already taken quite a few shots dealing with Tod and the rioters. She didn’t notice it at the time, until she realized she felt a sharp ache in her shoulder when she moved her left arm. That, and the two power armored figures gave her pause for thought.

Seemingly made out of dull grey blocks of metal, the larger power armor actually matched Olivia’s height. Thick armor plates covered everything, segmented for movement. The helmet was the same dull grey, save for the black visor marking the eyes. Painted on the left shoulder was a skull and crossbones, with tallies below, around thirty or so. Below that was a tank silhouette with a red X crudely painted over it. Below that, seven scratched-in tallies marked the upper arm. She eyed the massive gun in his hand once more. It’s weird, being able to compare yourself to a tank. None the less, I absolutely do not want to pick a fight with the guy who kills tanks.

The smaller one, small in this case relative to the other set of armor, appeared to be composed entirely of cords of some burnished red metal. Arranged in a vague imitation of a human muscular system, the cords shifted as the suit moved. That seems delicate and exposed, but then again I couldn’t make a suit of armor to save my life, so I guess I can’t judge. On the back appeared to be a jetpack of some kind. He held the same gun the grey one held, the one that might actually be able to blow a hole through Olivia.

The officers in front relaxed marginally when she backed up. The officers behind them put Miya into cuffs. The one in grey power armor produced another set of cuffs and handed it to a nearby officer. The officer walked up, tore off Nomad’s bandana, and motioned for him to hold out his hands.

“If you try to shift, that will set off the thermite charge inside instantly. I recommend you don’t. And don’t think we didn’t come prepared if that fails,” said the officer.

Nomad’s face was impassive. He nodded, then said, “What is it that Marcus told you? That two MHU officers decided to defect out of the blue, along with a random vigilante and a feral? You buy that Bob?” He looked at another officer. The officer shook his head, but kept his weapon trained on Olivia. I really wish there weren’t a dozen guns aimed at me right now. She kept herself very, very still.

“Doesn’t matter what we think. If you’re innocent, you’re innocent. You know that. This isn’t up for debate,” said one of the power armor figures.

“Fuck you,” called out Miya. “We’re looking for F.F. too.”

“And who are you?” asked one of the power armor figures. The red one, I think. Miya spat at his face as he approached her. “OK then.”

Olivia noticed that no one had approached her with cuffs. In fact, they had moved Nomad and Miya off a little bit to the side. Now that no guns and explosions were going off right next to her, her ears began to recover. She heard the shuffles and clicks from officers behind her, well out of arm’s reach. Please don’t shoot me.

“So we just happened to be out here, fighting Freedom Fighter’s minions, even though you think we’re on the same side as them?” asked Nomad calmly.

“I can’t think of any other reason for F.F. escaping the first time. So far as we can tell he got out through where you were supposed to be guarding,” said Red.

“Never mind the fact that one of us tore his arm off in the process.”

“And your proof of that is…?”

“She did it, if you’ll believe that.” Nomad motioned to Olivia with his head.

“Didn’t you send two members of the Watch to the hospital? Aren’t you and your buddies running around with that feral? You aren’t talking your way out of this one,” said Red.

“That first one was Skulker, and you know how vigilantes operate. Besides, they fired on us first. And as for the feral, her name is Olivia. She’s actually been quite helpful against Freedom Fighter.”

“Oh, you guys named her.” Even through the voice filter, he sounded condescending. Olivia wasn’t liking the red guy.

“We didn’t, she did. Ask her, she can speak for herself. Marcus told you nothing, did he?” Should…should I say something? Should he ask a question first?

Red emitted a sort of derisive snort, sounding very strange after going through his speakers, or voice modulator, or whatever it was he used to mask his voice. He turned to Olivia. “So, Olivia,” he began, speaking slowly and deliberately, “Why haven’t you said anything yet?”

“Because I really don’t want to get shot. I can’t stress enough how much it hurts. I know firsthand, I got shot a bunch not too long ago” she answered. I probably sounded like an idiot right there, didn’t I? A couple officers exchanged glances, otherwise maintaining discipline. She heard trucks approaching.

“Wait a minute…” Red trailed off, probably taking stock of the bullet holes in her clothing for the first time. I’d really like to go home now. The rest of the officers came to the same conclusion, suddenly gripping their guns far more tightly. They’d been awfully relaxed before, considering the circumstances. Did you not hear the ‘please don’t shoot me’ part?

Grey said, “You know, there might be some truth to what they’re saying.”

At that moment two trucks appeared and parked a short distance away, one of which appeared to be far more armored than standard.

“You need to listen to me,” said Nomad. “We were sent to see if Olivia was not a standard, murderous feral. It was during this that Freedom Fighter’s attack started. We were sent to help contain, and Olivia got caught in his power. Delta recorded all of this. We’ve had no dealings with F.F.” How is he so calm? You’d think he was walking through a park or something instead of in handcuffs and staring down a hostile robot guy.

“YOU need to stop talking. You’ve been spouting lies from the beginning. I have no reason to believe anything you’ve said,” said Red.

“Hey, you ever hear the term ‘scapegoat’, you bitch?” asked Miya.

Red made a move towards her. To Olivia’s surprise, the two officers flanking her looked like they were about to come between the two.

“Hey, leave her alone,” said Olivia, forgetting the fact that she wasn’t supposed to move, beginning to move towards Red and Miya. Several metallic clicks from various guns reminded her of that. She froze again.

“You know, the Aztec might be right,” said Grey, seemingly unconcerned.

Red ignored him, turning his attention to Olivia. “What did you say? Go on, go on, say it,” he prompted.

“Leave her alone,” she said. After a brief pause she added, “Please.” No reason not to be polite about such things, I guess.

“Please,” he said contemptuously, “Why should I? You people are the criminals, I am the law.”

“So? Doesn’t mean you’re any better than anyone else. You’d hit a handcuffed girl?” said Olivia.

“I’m better than you lot. At least I got powers, instead of just some hideous mutations. I don’t care how smart you are, you’re still only just above an animal.” Ow.

“You’re nothing special. You’re just a bully who happens to have power.”

“Damn right I have powers! Damn right it makes me ‘special’, as you call it.” Suddenly, the officers around him seemed to cast hostile glances towards the oblivious Red.

“Pathfinder, enough, back off. Remove the cuffs from those two,” said Grey suddenly.

Everyone stared at him, the officers only moving when Grey motioned for them to move.

“What the fuck are you doing, X?” asked Red. Or Pathfinder, I think. And what kind of name is X?

“Cyrus’s been corroborating everything Nomad over here’s been saying, showed me some records from Delta’s headcam thing. The Watch and a vigilante named Purifier reported in, saying they were getting overwhelmed when this lot came up from behind their attackers. Also, Skulker and Delta, the two others that were working with these three, just killed F.F., so there’s that. Delta just delivered a goldmine of info to counterterrorism if you need any more reasons. I’ve broadcast it to everyone else too. Just to let you make an ass of yourself for a couple minutes,” said X, with a hint of amusement. I’m starting to like this Cyrus guy, and this X guy.

“Cyrus…” began Pathfinder.

“Is a good friend, one I trust,” said X. “We’ll take these guys in for questioning, but they’re to be treated as non hostile, except the feral.” No, no, no, no. She tensed, going into overdrive.

The smoke of five distinct fires reached her. Blood, dirt, sweat, adrenaline, gunpowder, gasoline, much more, too much. The red suit smelled of some strange substance Olivia couldn’t place, the other smelled more of oil and steel. The air tasted of soot and the trash of a city.

Several helicopters buzzed, going about to various destinations, ones Olivia did not know. Whirring noises escaped from both the suits of armor, with no rhyme or reason discernable to her. The hearts of the officers near her beat fast, far faster than her own. Their breathing heightened. Something exploded off in the distance for the millionth time; gunfire still rang out from pockets of the city.

She realized why the officers were so taut. She’d backed up a bit, taking up more of a fighting stance. Her hands uncurled, she crouched, observing the officers warily. Aaaaand, of course I’m hissing slightly. I need to keep better track of that. Her tail thrashed.

“Wait, why?” asked Nomad.

“Technicalities, more or less. Nothing to worry about. While I suspect they’ll be worthless, she’ll just be in standard cuffs. I’m trusting she knows fighting will only make her position worse.” He looked at Olivia. No, no cages or experiments or anything else. No.

She hesitated, so he added, “Don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t a request. You might even escape if you try. But that will only be digging yourself a hole, and I don’t think you want that.”

I hate logic right about now. Nomad gave a small nod. She’d been half hoping for him to shake his head. She gave an incredibly hesitant nod towards X.

“What?” exclaimed Pathfinder. “Non hostile? Are you and Cyrus out of your-”

He was cut off by X, all hints of humor gone from his voice, distorted as it was. “Another word out of your mouth and there will be hell to pay, Lieutenant. I will get Full Metal Jacket on your ass. Or have you forgotten you’re in the army? Act like it. Now, everyone, move.” An officer approached Olivia hesitantly with the cuffs.

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