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Chapter Ten: What’s Lost is Found
By Myths n’ Wraiths
Edited by Vindea
“What do you feel?” PhoenixHawk’s strong and confident voice entered her thoughts.
A cool breeze that caries the smell of coming rain. The fading warmth of the sun as it dims behind the clouds. The eyes of all of my teammates staring at me, waiting. And the loneliness of one man.
Remedy Heart’s eyes fluttered open and she looked about herself to regain her bearings. She and the other Onami members that had assembled were standing on the rooftop of a six-story apartment building. Seagulls sailed lazily past her view and she allowed her eyes to follow their path, preferring them to the grim and expectant expressions of her companions.
There is only one person in the apartment. He is tired and he is lonely. Remedy Heart spoke softly with her mind.
Brain Fried’s shrouded head nodded in agreement to their leader and PhoenixHawk let out a long sigh.
“We will proceed with caution anyway. Kwang Ghe, you and Nytehawk take the back entrance. Takai, Thauma, Shadow Pain and I will go in the front. Brain Fried and Remedy, you two wait here for support and warn us if you sense anything. This is an active apartment complex so I want everyone to exercise control over your powers in there.” PhoenixHawk laid out his plan.
Remedy Heart nodded and moved over to an air conditioning unit where she took a seat to wait. The rest of the team formed up with their assigned partners and after a quick discussion of how to proceed they all disappeared off of the roof, some leaping, others flying and a few moving down the fire escape so quickly that they could barely be seen with the naked eye. Once they had left her sight, the mentalist let her mind and heart free, feeling their emotions while they took up positions around the apartment building and moved inside.
The faint tension built slightly but steadily in each mind when they approached the apartment from their separate routs. It mounted to an almost palpable force for the powerful Empath when the team formed outside of the apartment door and made their quick and efficient entrance into the small living area. Within seconds, the tension had passed completely from the group and Remedy Heart stood up and looked at Brain Fried.
“We should go join them now,” the painted man said to his fellow telepath.
When the pair arrived at the entrance to the apartment, Shadow Pain was there to meet them. The lithe sword master nodded to the two mentalists and spoke gently, “We found an old man sleeping in the back room. PhoenixHawk is there, waiting for you, Remedy.”
Remedy Heart nodded to her teammate and entered the apartment. In the living room, other members of her team moved about with a sense of purpose while combing the area for clues. She passed among them and made her way to the back of the apartment where she found her leader standing over a middle-aged man who was resting peacefully on a large bed. Beside Aaron stood the tall yet slender Thauma Guard. The dark skinned Heroine turned to face the Empath when she entered the room and motioned to the sleeping man.
“He matches the description of the man that was taken from the prison transport,” Thauma spoke softly, the nurturing side of her not wanting to disturb the peace of the man's slumber.
“His sleep seems to be induced. It would help to know if it was by drugs,” PhoenixHawk added.
Remedy Heart touched the man's mind gently with her own thoughts. With the grace of a summer breeze she tested the surface of his consciousness.
His sleep has been psychically induced. Whoever placed him in this state is no ordinary telepath. It will take some time to awaken him. She answered PhoenixHawk in short order.
A grim expression passed over PhoenixHawk’s face and he said “I will arrange for an ambulance to come pick him up. Do what you can with him until then, but we need to speak to him as soon as possible.”
Remedy Heart nodded to PhoenixHawk and stepping up beside the sleeping man, placed a slender hand on his forehead and began to let the full weight of her telepathic abilities rest on his mind. Slowly, her mind sunk deeper into his and began to wash away the psychic barriers that held him from a full consciousness. Despite the focus her task required, Remedy was still aware of her fellow Heroes as they retreated toward the entrance of the room and whispered among themselves.
She felt more than heard PhoenixHawk say, “When a telepath that is so in tune with her powers she hardly ever speaks with her lips tells you that we are dealing with ‘no ordinary telepath’, it can’t be a good thing.”
“We have dealt with mentalists before,” Thauma Guard responded quietly but with confidence. “Besides, I can’t imagine there is anyone that could stand up to both Remedy and Brain Fried. We will be fine.”
“That’s not the point,” PhoenixHawk said, his thoughts and voice filled with more frustration than concern. “All of the attacks recorded last night were physical in nature. Now we are dealing with mentalists, too. Not to mention the fact that whoever took this man from the Paragon Patriots went through a lot of trouble and then they just left him here for us to find. This is the first thing that has gone our way since this assignment began and all it did was raise more questions.”
Thauma Guard paused for a brief moment and Remedy could sense the faint exhilaration that came from physical contact.
“You will see this through. You will find the answers and you will save these people before they are forced to commit more atrocities,” the uniquely beautiful magician said to her lover. “I have no doubt of it.”
The frustration faded slowly from Aaron’s mind and heart and he braced himself with a newfound resolve.
“I have no other option,” he said resolutely.
“Even if you did you wouldn’t settle for it,” Thauma Guard insisted.
* * *
The sound of Horble’s thick-soled boots resounded through the halls of the Longbow Medical Facility. His long strides carried him quickly past nurses and patients with a sense of purpose and deliberation. When he arrived at the secured wing, he was quickly allowed through the doors after showing his identification. The two Longbow guard the entrance saluted the Captain with a crisp movement of their hands and stood at attention while he passed.
Along the sterile halls of the clinic, identical steel doors lead to identical secure treatment rooms. Horble passed by half a dozen of them before coming to one, which was guarded by two Heroes, members of the Onami Strike Force.
“Captain Horble, Longbow SF,” he said by way of introduction to the two Heroes, one a slightly framed man with red face paint and a shroud over his head and the other with a more stout constitution and glowing blue veins.
“Afternoon Captain,” the larger of the two men replied. “PhoenixHawk is expecting you.” With that, the Hero keyed a security code into a small luminous panel on the wall behind him and the door to the room slid open.
The Captain stepped into the observation room, a small chamber decorated with a few chairs and a table. It was adorned with a one-way mirror, which allowed him to look in on yet another secured room where the prisoner received care. PhoenixHawk stood with his arms crossed over his chest and was staring in through the window at the old man who was now sitting up on the treatment bed, while his companion, a tall woman with ebony skin and bright hair, sat at the table.
“Afternoon, PhoenixHawk,” Horble said, and stepped up next to the Hero to follow his gaze into the room. He was slightly taken aback to see yet another Hero in the room with the prisoner. A woman of slender frame and light blue skin sat at the foot of his bed with her back turned toward the mirror.
“Is she interrogating him?” Horble asked incredulously.
“More like speaking to him,” PhoenixHawk replied, passing the Longbow officer a sideways glance, the luminous glow of his eyes intensifying slightly. “He doesn’t remember anything since last night. Did you bring the information I requested?”
“Yes,” Horble replied, pulling a small data pad from his belt and handing it to the taller Hero. “Everything we have on him is in there. His name is Jeremy Welsh. Lives and works in Steel Canyon. Has no criminal record on file. A few years ago was forced to watch as a group of Circle of Thorn performed a ritual summoning using his wife as the host. A passing Hero saved his life before the Thorns could use him for the same purpose. All of the mages were apprehended. Two are still in prison. One died in a riot a year back and another two escaped in the prison break last winter.”
PhoenixHawk looked over a few of the files on the data pad quickly and his face turned grim. He passed the pad to his female companion who began to look over it in more detail.
“Are you sure it is safe to have her in there?” Horble persisted, nodding to the woman in the cell.
“Jeremy is too weak to even stand, and we just pulled him out of a psychically induced slumber. But even if he did still have whatever powers he possessed last night, I would not be worried for her safety.” PhoenixHawk replied evenly, then turned to face Horble. “You said you would be bringing a professional interrogator so we could begin the process of questioning this man and figuring out where his companions are.”
Horble nodded patronizingly and replied, “I am more than qualified to handle that myself but it could take some time depending on how determined he is. I was hoping we could settle for a more efficient method.”
PhoenixHawk’s expression grew dark and his jaw tensed but he did not respond.
“According the registry for this Task Force you have a couple telepaths-”
“Absolutely not,” PhoenixHawk cut Horble off before he could finish his statement.
“That is illegal,” the dark skinned woman agreed coming up out of her seat.
Horble rolled his eyes and held his hands up defensively, “Just hear me out. You said it yourself, PhoenixHawk, if we don’t get to these people before some other Heroes do then this thing could get bloody. Now I am the only person with eyes on this matter. The only thing my superiors know about this is what I put in my reports. If your telepath can extract the information we need and drop a hint in his brain that he gave it to us freely then no one will ever know the difference, not even him. We get the information we need, he gets a break with the DA for cooperating and everyone goes home happy. More importantly we will save lives.”
PhoenixHawk stood for a long moment, staring at the Longbow officer. His expression was hard and impervious, his eyes radiating a bright green.
“Aaron you can’t-” Thauma Guard started to interject when he did not speak, but was cut off when the Hero held up a hand for her silence. He stepped in close to Horble, his face merely inches away from the Captains.
“Is this how you people do business? Is this what this city is coming to?” PhoenixHawk nearly growled at Horble in a low deep tone.
“Phoenix-” Horble began to speak.
“You are no better than the person that twisted that man into the killer he was. You want to use and manipulate an innocent man, the same man you and everyone else in that uniform took an oath to protect and defend. He lost his wife, right in front of his eyes. He was empowered to give up what life he had and become a crazed vigilante. He was on the verge of death only hours ago and now you want me to tell one of my people to go in and rape his memory?” Aaron’s voice never wavered as he spoke. The deep tone of his inflection never rose an octave, but when he spoke his final words, the temperature in the room increased suddenly and faint traces of flames began to lick the air around the Hero’s body.
“You sicken me Captain. Get out.” He nearly whispered at Horble but the power of his words and presence left no room for debate. The Captain passed a quick glance at the woman behind PhoenixHawk, who was standing with her slender arms across her chest and her chin raised proudly. Without another word, he left the room.
Making his way quickly out of the hospital and into the warmth of the evening air, Horble snatched his phone from his belt and hit a speed dial key. The phone rang twice before a familiar voice answered.
“I thought you said this guy could be controlled,” Horble spat in frustration.
“What are you talking about Captain,” the soft and lilting voice replied evenly.
“Your Hero that you have running this Task Force. He didn’t go for it,” Horble persisted.
There was a long pause before Numina responded, “What does he intend to do?”
“Hell if I know. He ousted me for even suggesting the idea.”
Again, there was a long pause and this time Horble did not wait for answer before continuing, “I told you no idealists. No freakin’ boy scouts. That’s what I said.”
“I am well aware of our conversation, Captain and your advice was duly noted. Now I will remind you that PhoenixHawk’s actions are no longer any of your concern. Prepare your troops to support the Onami when they find the location of the vigilantes,” Numina spoke more forcefully.
“You mean ‘if’ they find the location,” Horble corrected, the condescension evident in his voice.
“You have your criteria for effective leaders Captain, and I have mine,” Numina practically scolded Horble. “The Hero will bring this to a conclusion soon. I suggest you use the time wisely,” she said and then hung up.
Horble stared at his phone in contempt for a moment before shoving it into his pocket.
“Damn capes. How the hell does this city survive with these people guarding it?” he muttered to himself.
* * *
PhoenixHawk took a deep breath to calm his nerves before pressing the release button for the door to Jeremy’s room. The pressure locked portal slid open with a faint hiss of air and the Hero stepped inside. Both Jeremy and Remedy Heart turned to face the tried man, who made a point of presenting himself as unimposing as possible.
“Thank you Remedy,” PhoenixHawk said to his companion. “I will take it from here.”
Of course, she replied and after patting Jeremy’s leg reassuringly left the two men.
“Hello,” PhoenixHawk spoke to Jeremy and tried to force a smile on his face. “My name is Aaron,” he continued, pulling a chair up next the medical bed and taking a seat.
“Jeremy, Jeremy Welsh,” the older man said, nodding politely. “Forgive me if I don’t stand, I am not quite feeling myself.”
PhoenixHawk smiled more genuinely at the man’s sense of humor and replied, “Quite understandable.”
“I must say, this is not at all how I was expecting to be treated when I was…” The man’s voice trailed off and his eyes drifted down towards the floor. “Your companion was very courteous,” he concluded.
“It is her nature. At least with good and honest people,” PhoenixHawk stated, honestly and openly.
“But I am not such a good person anymore, am I? At least not in the eyes of justice,” Jeremy responded just as openly.
“Justice is blind. Remedy and I aren’t.” Aaron spoke sympathetically but evenly. “Yes, you have done something that can not be undone or overlooked, but I don’t think that is something you would have done under your own power and in your right mind.”
Jeremy looked at PhoenixHawk curiously for a moment but said nothing.
“Jeremy, I need to know what happened to you. I need to know what, or who, gave you and others like you these powers,” the Hero stated, his radiant green eyes looking on at the man intently.
“I know,” Jeremy replied evenly, his tired eyes drifting away from PhoenixHawk’s penetrating gaze. “Believe me, I wish I could tell you.”
“But you can,” Aaron persisted. “Whatever it is, whatever you are afraid of, we can protect you.”
“It isn’t that,” Jeremy replied. “You see, I was given a chance, a chance to get justice for a wrong that has haunted me for… too long. I know that the world sees me as an outlaw for taking things into my own hands but after three years of waiting for my wife’s murderers to be brought to justice, I ask you, what was I supposed to do? I was given the opportunity and I took it, but others have not had enough time to find their own justice. I have found my peace and I am willing to accept my punishment, but I have to give other people the chance to find their own peace as well.” Jeremy’s words were laced with resolve but little passion.
PhoenixHawk sat in silence for a long moment, his steady gaze bearing down on the older man. His eyes and resolve spoke as loudly as his even words, “Jeremy, have you truly found peace? Did killing those Circle of Thorn really fill that whole that the death of your wife left inside of you?”
Jeremy refused to return his gaze or even speak a word.
“I lost my family in the war and it seemed like the end of my world, but in time I was able to overcome that pain and dedicate my life to saving others from that same heartache. There were times when all I wanted to do was hunt down every last one of those aliens and make them pay for the hurt they caused us all, but no matter how many I hunted down and defeated it only made the loss that much harder to bear. It took me several years, but I finally realized that it is a person’s life that should be honored, not their death.”
Faint tears began to slip down Jeremy’s gaunt cheeks but still he said nothing.
“I didn’t know your wife, sir, though I am sure I would have loved to have had the privilege, but I think I can say with confidence that she would be far more pleased knowing that you had managed to find peace in life without perpetuating the endless cycle of violence that plagues your home; the same cycle of violence that took her-.
“It hade to be done!” Jeremy snapped, suddenly looking up at PhoenixHawk through blood-shot and streaming eyes. “Day after day those villains roam around haunting us, preying on us! It wasn’t enough they took my precious Silvia…” He tried to continue speaking but the name of his wife stuck in his throat and he choked over the pain of loss. Swallowing hard, he pressed on in a weakening voice that began to quake with tears. “They are there, everywhere you turn. They are the ones in the wrong, they are the ones stealing all that is good and decent and yet they are not the ones living in fear. I am sick of living in fear. They took my wife’s life; they should be the ones that are afraid!”
For the first time since the conversation had started, the radiance in Aaron’s eyes wavered. In the face of such pain and helplessness it was all he could do to stay focused on the reality of the situation, the truth.
“There will always be fearful things in this world, Jeremy. There will always be those who prey on the innocent. But if we sacrifice our own innocence and betray what our loved ones have lived for then we are no different than those things we are afraid of. I did not stop hunting the Rikti because I thought it a hopeless cause or because I tired of the duty, I chose to become a Hero and fight evil throughout this city in all its forms because that is what my Mother and my Father would have wanted me to do. So I ask you, Jeremy, what would Silvia want you to do?”
* * *
Thauma Guard turned her head sharply in intense anticipation to face Aaron when he emerged from the cell. Her short cut orange hair wisped around her ebony face and her eyes pleaded for a favorable response. She didn’t speak, she didn’t even breathe.
PhoenixHawk let out a long sigh after the door sealed behind him and his eyes flashed with emerald energy when he spoke. “Form up the team, we are heading to Boomtown.”