Within a few minutes, the area was swarming with police cars which screeched in from every direction while a team helped the armor team extract themselves from the twisted, sparking wrecks of their power armor. I stood, watching Guardian Angel and Dark Archon struggle against the mound of thick foam that adhered them to the asphalt.
The leader of the CCPD Armor Division approached me in the grey jumpsuit she’d been wearing under the armor, with the addition of an orange shock blanket draped over her shoulders and a cup of coffee.
“This is going to be a long night,” she said. “The Mayor’s declared a state of emergency after he found out his son was caught in one of the attacks, which means we can call in the big guns.” She glanced back at the wrecked power armor on the lawn. “Well, bigger guns.
These Temple Sun guys are burning a lot of bridges tonight. They’re now officially an international terrorist group.”
“About damn time,” I said.
“Oh, and you’ve been deputized.”
I was about to respond when A beat-up two-door sedan pulled up and parked across the street. The door opened and Myriad stepped out, wearing jeans and a hoodie in place of her usual power suit. She stood on the sidewalk, watching at the bustle of police activity around the precinct with her face cloaked by the shadow from her hood. After a moment, she reached back into the back of the car and pulled out a plastic bag.
I waved her over, which attracted the officer’s attention to her.
“Who’s that?” she asked. “Calling in the reserves?”
“Yeah,” I said. Huh, convenient explanation. “She typically stays behind, ‘cause he doesn’t really have a secret identity, but she’s really useful when this kind of thing happens.”
“Motherfuckers got themselves brain-blasted,” muttered Myriad when she got close. “You know, I ain’t your fucking brain bleach dispensary,” she said to me. “I was fuckin’ sleeping.”
“Charmed,” commented the officer.
Myriad didn’t so much as acknowledge the other woman as she pulled a handful of syringes out of the bag she carried, then put down the bag and knelt down next to Guardian Angel and Dark Archon.
“Hold up, what’s in those?” I asked.
“Mostly Neuraplast, partly stars,” she said.
“Yeah, and fuckin’ glitter,” she snapped. “Now shut up and let me work.”
She pinned Guardian Angel’s exposed head with her knees to stop him from flailing around and punched the syringe into the side of his neck. He continued to struggle for a moment, then relaxed. As soon as he stopped resisting, she brought her face in close to his and stared him in the eyes for a moment, then shuffled back away from him.
“Wha-” Guardian Angel muttered. He looked left and right, then down at the mountain of foam covering him and Dark Archon. “What the hell? What happened?”
“Mind control,” I said. “I should have warned you to stay out of this.”
“That’s not… That shouldn’t be possible,” he sounded surprisingly coherent given how recently he’d been brainwashed.
“Well, it doesn’t pay to advertise,” I said, glancing over at Myriad, who working on freeing Dark Archon from Temple’s influence.
“Shit, what did I do?” He asked. “How’d this happen?”
“Not important right now. I’ll explain once we get DA back.” I turned to the leader of the armored division. “I’ve been meaning to ask, why weren’t you affected by it?”
“What we see when we’re wearing the helmets is low-latency feed from cameras and microphones on the helmets,” she said. “You’d be surprised how many invisibility or illusion-based effects don’t work on camera.”
“Well, at least we know he’s not going to be broadcasting his voice over the radio to mind-control everyone,” Guardian Angel said, letting his head rest on the asphalt of the street. “But still, fuck.”
“I think if he could do that, he would have,” I said. “And no, it doesn’t feel great, does it?”
“Wagh! What’s she doing here?” exclaimed Dark Archon.
“You’re welcome. I don’t do it for free.” Myriad replied with all the sarcasm she could muster as she shuffled backwards away from him.
Oh right, she kidnapped his best friend to blackmail him into fighting for her. I really should have remembered that. I improvised. “Look, I get that you two have a past. Can we put that aside for the moment and focus on what’s important, please?”
The officer chuckled to herself at what she perceived as a bit of team drama. Yay. Dark Archon twisted his head towards me and raised a jagged crystalline eyebrow.
“Uh,” he hesitated, then continued, “No. Nope. Nope nope nope. Get her the fuck out of here, and fuck you for being okay with this.” His whole body shook inside the foam. “Get me the fuck out of here!”
Not so yay.
“I just saved you from being the bitch-puppet of the priest to a glorified Cthuga wannabe so gimme some credit,” Myriad retorted. “I get that we’re not even but still, ease up on the hate, bro.”
“Grah!” grunted Dark Archon as his head separated from his trapped body and floated up to eye-level.
“Jesus christ!” shouted Myriad as she stumbled backwards away from his floating head. “What the actual fuck?”
“I don’t care.” replied Dark Archon’s floating head. “Get. Away. From. Me!” As he spoke, the shards of crystal that formed his head flared out, with gaps forming in between.
“Back, demon face!” Myriad jogged backwards across the street, got in her car, and sped away.
“As amusing as that was, I do need to ask you to stay on task,” said the officer. “We should have the solvent for that stuff out of storage in a few minutes. It shouldn’t be too hard to track down that van, given that it’s one of the least subtle vehicles possible.”
A pair of officers pushing a handcart carrying a large plastic barrel with a hose trailing out of it exited the police headquarters and made their way over to us. They dropped the barrel and one of them started to pump air into the barrel with the attached pump.
“You may want to hold your breath. This stuff isn’t dangerous, but it does smell,” said the leader of the armor division. I took a step backwards. Safe or not, I didn’t want whatever it was getting into my body.
The other officer with the barrel started spraying the mound of containment foam with the solvent from the barrel. The purplish-grey liquid ate through the foam like it wasn’t even there, quickly melting it into a puddle on the asphalt.
Dark Archon’s body morphed from lying down to standing up and hopped out of the pool of liquified foam, where his head snapped back onto his neck. Guardian Angel conjured his wings to push himself upright and looked down with disgust at the liquid soaking his new costume. He shivered against the cold.
My phone buzzed in my pocket and I teleported it to my hand to check it. Jamisson. I answered.
“Shadow, Dr. Mind and Savage are back, with Lazarus and Rob Banks in tow. It looks like Temple used Banks to open-source the nullifier’s design,” Jamisson said.
“That explains how Temple had one here,” I said. “He used it to get rid of the mark I’d left on him when he was leaving.”
“So he was there? Himself? That’s big. If Temple was there in person, Savage should be able to track him down. I’ll send him to you,” Jamisson paused. “Whatever he was after, it must be important. But why do this himself and send a drone to LazTech?”
“I dunno,” I replied, looking back at the carnage from the fight. The lawn was torn up and littered with the wreckage of power armor from both sides of the exchange. “My best guess is that Ransom had some information he wanted that he couldn’t get from the Anchor Boys at the safehouse.”
“The location of Randwulf, maybe?”
“I thought of that, but I asked Ransom about that before we took him in and he didn’t know anything.” A thought struck me. “The location of Davy Jones’ safe,” I said. “Nemo said that Ransom was the one who found it. Have you taken a look at the slide projector?”
“Not yet. I’d dismissed it as a distraction, but I’ll get Dr. Mind on it now. You three, get ready. I get the feeling that you’re going to have to face him again soon.”
Jamisson hung up and I turned back to Guardian Angel and Dark Archon.
“We got orders?” Guardian Angel asked.
“Yup. We gotta stomp this guy,” I said. “For whatever reason, it looks like he’s after Randwulf.”
“Shit, if he gets his hands him that could be catastrophic.” Guardian Angel said.
The officer looked back and forth between us and then said, “I feel like there are a few salient details you need to fill us in about.”
“The ITAB didn’t talk to you about this?” Guardian Angel asked.
“The ITAB is involved?” Her eyes widened in surprise. “Now I remember why we had an open communication policy with the Wardens of Justice.”
“This is new to me, too,” said Dark Archon.
The officer gestured to the police headquarters and said, “Why don’t we continue this discussion inside, where it’s not freezing cold?”
There has to be something more going on here, I thought, all the unanswered questions about the various pieces of the conspiracy resting heavy on me. As we headed into the building, I could feel the answer niggling at the edge of my mind, but the connections weren’t quite there. Still a few missing pieces.