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Chapter Eight: No Return or Desire
By Myths n’ Wraiths
Edited By Vindea
The chaos that met PhoenixHawk when he landed firmly behind the lines of the police security tape was nearly palpable. Reporters and spectators alike swarmed outside the perimeter with the frenzy of a hungry troop of ants drawn to a picnic. Inside the relative haven of the boundary tape Longbow troops, police officers, detectives and paramedics moved in a barely containable flury of motion.
Aaron scanned the features of the people around him, looking for a familiar face or even someone who bore the look of being in charge. The thickest mob of public servants was gathered around the main hatch at the rear of the titanium security trailer. Deciding that would be the best place to find answers Aaron began to make his way toward them. Coming up to the rear of the mob, he peered inside the slightly adjacent hatch of the trailer. What he saw there chilled his senses.
Heavy splatters of dark blood still dripped down the inside of the hatch and covered what little of the floor could still be scene in the low light of the security trailer. A forensic investigator emerged from the dark portal with a vague look of nausea on his masked face. His gloved hands and smocked boots were dripping with blood and his skin was as pale as snow.
“PhoenixHawk I presume.” A voice cut through the murmur of the crowd and drew Aaron’s attention. He turned around to see a tall, middle-aged man in traditional Longbow Special Forces garb. The upper part of his face was covered in a skull tight, dark red hood, but his jaw looked to be cut from marble.
“Captain Horble, Longbow SF,” the stocky man introduced himself and offered his hand, which Aaron shook firmly. “Numina contacted me and said I should keep an eye out for you, sir,”
“What happened here?” PhoenixHawk asked, cutting the introductions short.
“Best we can tell, the convoy was attacked by a group of unknown enemies. They locked the group leader in one of the confinement cells and sedated her. She was the lucky one. Her second in command was not so lucky. They broke his MTS transponder so he couldn’t be med-ported out and tore him up something horrible. We’re a little sketchy on the details, but somehow the group leader was released from the cell and the other Hero was sent to the hospital by the use of her transponder.” Horble spoke with a staid professionalism, but Aaron could tell that beneath his cool exterior a barely contained rage was brewing. “I just got done speaking to the head nurse that received him at the hospital. Judging from the wounds and the layout of the scene it looks like they broke off his own spines and used them to pin him to the wall. The doctors have him in stable condition, but it will be a long rehabilitation process, even for a Regenerative.”
“And the suspect?” Aaron pressed.
“Gone,” Captain Horble replied setting his jaw grimly. “Everything points to a rescue attempt by the suspect's companions but there are some things that just don’t add up,”
“Just prior to the attack, the convoy made an unscheduled stop and the group leader dismissed both her aerial and interior guards. With no explanation, she dismissed four Heroes.” Horble said, shaking his head.
“Have you spoken to her about it yet?”
“She was still recovering from the sedatives when I arrived, but we can go check on her progress. She definitely has some answering to do,” Horble said, waving toward an ambulance not far from the trailer.
Aaron nodded somberly, following the Longbow Agent. They rounded the corner of the vehicle and approached the opened double doors at its rear. A uniformed police officer and a middle-aged man in brown slacks and tailored vest, sporting a brimmed hat to match, looked up at the pair of Heroes as they approached. Behind them, with an I.V. attached to her arm and a still groggy look on her tussled yet beautiful face, sat the Heroine known as the Emerald Queen. A look of mild panic passed over the officer's face while a complacent smile decorated that of his companions.
"What is this?" Captain Horble demanded, looking sternly on the police officer and his civilian cohort. "I gave orders that she was not to be questioned without me present."
"I uhhh.... I'm sorry, sir, I wasn't aware of such an order. I was just following procedure and trying to get a statement while everything was still fresh," the police officer spoke in a faltering voice.
"And you? Who are you?" Horble asked, and nodded to the civilian in the broad hat.
"Forensic sketcher," he responded quickly and raised a sketchpad and pencil to testify to his claim.
Both men were lying. Both Heroes knew it. It made little matter.
"Clear out, we will take over the questioning," the Longbow Captain snapped, nodding his head to dismiss them. When the pair had beaten a hasty retreat he muttered, "Damn media."
PhoenixHawk’s attention had fallen fully on Emerald Queen, who watched the entire scene with a foggy detachment. “How are you feeling?” he asked, his radiant green eyes looking intently at her.
She looked up at him, her face a mix of frustration, fear, and apprehension, and said, “Horrible.”
Both of the Heroes nodded their understanding, but Captain Horble pressed his agenda with a gentle but direct tone. “I understand you have gone through a lot, but we need to ask you a few questions.”
“I know,” she replied, physically squaring her shoulders and bracing herself for what she obviously expected to be an interrogation.
“First of all, did you get a look at your attackers? Do you now how many there were or what they were wearing?” Horble asked while discretely thumbing a device on his belt. The motion did not escape PhoenixHawk’s notice and he assumed it was a recorder.
“No,” she said, shaking her head and rubbing her palm against her forehead. “I- I don’t remember anything.”
Captain Horble took a step back, obviously disturbed by the response. His face grew stormy with frustration and he opened his mouth to speak but PhoenixHawk took control of the questioning before the more aggressive Captain had an opportunity to berate the woman.
“What do you mean ‘you don’t remember anything’?” Phoenix Hawk asked with a tone of concern.
“I don’t know,” she said, tears of frustration forming in her eyes. “The last thing I remember was loading Jeremy into the security trailer and preparing to leave. Then the next thing I know, I woke up lying on the floor in a pool of blood.” She looked up at PhoenixHawk, her puffy green eyes a mass of confusion and even fear.
“It’s all right,” he replied, and laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. He saw in her eyes the same sense of failure that he or any other true leader would have felt if the people under his care had been hurt. He did not ever wish to feel that level of helplessness.
“You have been through much,” PhoenixHawk continued, “and to wake up in your state, to see the blood of someone you lead, someone you care about…”
“Someone I lead?” she cut in, her confusion deepening.
“The blood that was in the trailer,” Horble interjected with little tact. “It was your teammate’s.”
“Pierce?” she asked. “No, it wasn’t.”
“How can you be so sure?” Captain Horble replied curtly.
“We have spent years together, Captain, I know what Pierce’s life force feels like. That was not his blood I woke up in,” the Empath replied emphatically.
“Right,” Captain Horble said, slowly nodding his head. Distain and disbelief seethed from his tone.
PhoenixHawk shot the uncouth Longbow Officer a withering glance and then turned his attention back to the woman. “Thank you for helping us. If anything else comes back to you then you can find me on the registry. The Onami Strike Force will be taking over the search for the escapee and the investigation into the killings.”
Emerald Queen nodded gratefully then rested her head in her hands once again, not bothering to watch as the two men walked away. They rounded the side of the ambulance and waited until they were several yards away before speaking.
“You’re not too bad at that,” Horble said with a decided nod.
“Excuse me?” PhoenixHawk replied, tilting his head in confusion.
“Your questioning. You played the ‘good cop’ very well.”
PhoenixHawk stopped walking and turned to face the Longbow officer before speaking. “So that attitude you had back there, that was just an act for you.”
Horble frowned and shrugged his shoulders. “For the most part.”
“So did you believe what she said?” PhoenixHawk asked, looking at the Captain intently with his green eyes.
“Do I think she answered the questions truthfully? Yes. Do I think she knows or suspects something she isn’t telling us? Yes,” Horble said, reaching into his belt and pulling out the recording device he had been using during the questioning.
“And the part about the blood not being her teammate’s?”
“She’s one of the foremost Empaths in the city. If she says that blood wasn’t his, I would put money on it.”
PhoenixHawk nodded in agreement, “Looks like the scrapper gave as much as he took.”
“We can only hope-,” Horble began to speak but was cut off by an approaching Longbow Agent.
“Captain Horble,” the young lady, dressed in traditional red and white, called to him. “We have news from the hospital where the victim was sent for recovery.”
“And?” Horble replied curtly.
“He has regained consciousness sir but is not very lucid. The officers there say that he seems to be in a fitful dream. He keeps mumbling the word ‘wraith’ over and over again,” she said standing in front of her superior officer with military precision, her hands clasped behind her back.
“It may mean nothing, sir, but they thought you should know.”
“Thank you, Corporal,” Horble said, frowning deeply. “You are dismissed.”
The Longbow agent walked away without a word, once again leaving the two men to their thoughts. Horble passed PhoenixHawk the recording device he had been holding and flashed a humoring smile.
“You’ll need that for your investigation. Don’t know that it will be any help though.”
PhoenixHawk took the recorder and frowned slightly. Questions filled his mind. Too few answers rose to meet them. He took his surroundings in for a brief moment, reflecting on the crowd of onlookers and the slowly growing number of Heroes who had come to see the scene for themselves. Two of the Heroes hovered several yards above the scene, engrossed in animated conversation. Another stood near the outskirts of the crowd, seething brilliant green energy, the mask on his face covering his features but not his rage. More were arriving every moment, landing inside the yellow Police tape and beginning to ask questions of the Police and Longbow agents. Anger was evident on too many faces.
Captain Horble looked around, seeing what PhoenixHawk had noticed. “This is going to get ugly,” he muttered in a low deep tone.
A Hero had been brutally assaulted and almost killed by a vigilante group. In the minds of the Heroes of this city, it had already gotten ugly. PhoenixHawk felt the weight of his responsibility settle on his spirit. If he did not find the culprits soon, then another Hero would. Looking once again at the righteous anger in their faces, he knew he could not let that happen.
Tucking the recording device into his belt PhoenixHawk lifted lightly off the ground and began to take flight. Horble looked up at him in confusion.
“Where you going?”
“To track a wraith,” PhoenixHawk replied somberly and was gone.
* * *
entered the simple but tastefully decorated bedroom of the Dogs of War’s
“Myth,” she demanded. “What is going on? What happened in that trailer?”
Myth peeled off the burnt and tattered shirt he had been wearing since he had emerged from the sewers then paused to look into his lover's green eyes.
When they had arrived at the trailer, the smell of pain had been nearly overwhelming to Myth’s senses. It was nothing that he was not familiar with. That mass of agony, adrenalin, fear and rage often followed in his brother’s wake. It was a lingering sensation that was as palpable to the Empath as the physical damage that his reckless sibling caused in his fights. But this time it had been different. This time Wraith’s enemy, his victim, had been a Hero.
It had been all Myth could do to suppress his own rage. His first instinct had been to order the rest of the Dogs of War to assault the trailer and wrest his brother from the area by force, but pride more than anything else had demanded that he take those actions himself. Ordering his team to remain outside, Myth had entered the trailer in a tide of rage, but even having sensed the mayhem within, he had not been prepared for what met his eyes. The carnage that his brother’s foolish desperation had wrought was beyond what even he could have imagined. Blood was everywhere; bits of flesh and cloths lay strewn across the floor. Pierce, barley alive and hardly breathing, had been pinned to the wall of the trailer through his shoulders and abdomen by his own spikes, which had been broken from his body.
Finally, Myth’s eyes had settled on the dark figure at the end of the trailer. Wraith had Jeremy’s unconscious body draped over his shoulder. His remorseless face had been covered in dark red liquid; what was left of his clothes were stained crimson.
His anger had exploded inside of him at his brother's deeds. Myth had flown across the distance that separated them in an instant, his fist cocked back for a devastating blow. But at the last second something had staid his hand. For a brief second, a moment no longer than a heartbeat, the emotional black hole that was Wraith opened up. What had been a perfect calm of introverted feelings, even in his moments of most livid aggressiveness, suddenly stirred, and Myth had felt fear for the first time in his brother's heart. Not a fear of what he had done, nor the consequences that faced him, but a fear that he had not done enough. A fear that he had already failed to protect and guard her, failed to guard the woman he…
The truth of what had happened still remained. Actions required reactions, and so Myth had brought his hand down across his brother’s jaw with all the strength he could muster. An audible crack had filled the trailers narrow halls from the force of the blow. Despite the fact that his jaw hung at an odd angle on his face after the assault, Wraith had not flinched from the blow. He had stared intently back into Myth’s eyes, his own restless rage swirling behind his dark irises, but he had not retaliated. Instead he had simply grasped his jaw with his free hand, and without so much as a blink, snapped the dislocated member back into place. Without a word, Myth’s brother had left the scene, carrying with him the fading life of the vigilante he had fought so fiercely for. Without a word, Myth had let him go.
When he was alone in the trailer he had done what his mind had told him not to, but his heart insisted on. He had freed Emerald Queen from the security chamber and, after ensuring she would be all right physically, took her medical transponder and attached it to Pierce’s belt. It had taken the simplest telepathic command to Lusion, who was waiting outside with the rest of his teammates, and the mentalist had wiped the two unconscious Heroes’ minds clean of the events. With a surgical precision, all the memories of the confrontation had been removed.
The hollow and guilty satisfaction that had settled on him in that moment still lingered in Myth’s mind. He had sent Pierce to the hospital using Emerald’s transponder. He had had their minds cleaned of the events. He had covered up the single worst action that any of his people had ever taken.
“Nothing,” Myth replied tossing the filthy shirt on the floor and stripping out of the rest of his clothes. “Everything,” he added.
“Myth, he is as much a brother to me as he is to you,” Haven said, folding her arms. “But for the sake of the team, I need to know what happened, we all do.”
“He did what he had to do to get Jeremy back from the Paragon Patriots,” Myth said pointedly as he moved into the bathroom and turned the hot water on in the shower. “Pierce got in his way. I don’t think you need me to tell you how that turned out.”
“Oh my,” Haven whispered, apprehension gathering in her throat. “Did he… kill-”
“No,” Myth interjected, stepping into the shower before the water even had a chance to warm, and quickly scrubbing the filth of the sewers away. “But I don’t think that will make much difference to the Hero Corp if they ever find out who did it.”
“If?” Haven asked hesitantly. “You mean you covered it up.”
Myth turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. Grabbing a towel off the rack, he began to dry himself. Once he was done, he walked back into the bedroom and, resting his dark eyes on Haven’s steady but pensive face said, “Yes.”
Haven returned his gaze for a long moment and then slowly nodded her head. She had pulled the clothes from the black bag and laid them out for him on the bed so he could dress more quickly.
“They will assume that Jeremy’s friends attacked the convoy,” Haven stated suddenly after a moment of reflection.
Myth nodded while starting to get dressed, “That’s the point.”
“But Myth, the Heroes of this city will be out for blood! They will hunt these people down like common villains. When they find them they will lock them up and throw away the key,” Haven exclaimed, her voice rising slightly and her arms once again crossing her chest.“I’m not going to let that happen,” Myth replied coolly, and pulled on his T-shirt.