Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#5: Strange Bedfellows!
by Jennifer Kohl
Alex took a gulp of her coffee. It was too hot and brewed too long, and assaulted her senses like a slap to the face. Just what she needed after being woken up too early for the third day in a row. “Another electronic store?” she asked the uniformed beat cop at her side.
“The fourth in as many days,” he said. “The night manager swears it was a robot.”
Alex scoffed as they stepped through the remains of the door, broken glass crunching underfoot. “No such thing. They got security cams?”
“Yes,” said the cop. “But something scrambled their hard drives last night. We haven’t been able to get any footage out of them.”
“Fuck,” said Alex. “Just like yesterday’s hit.” But not the other two. Those were Pheremona, no question. But this isn’t her style. And what the hell is this crap about a robot?
“Perhaps I can be of assistance?”
Alex turned and groaned. The electronically distorted voice had come from a small figure wearing a formfitting black jumpsuit covered in a dizzying array of varicolored reflective patches and a weirdly curved, semi-transparent plastic mask. Even if Alex hadn’t immediately recognized the outfit, it would’ve been a dead giveaway that the wearer was a Special. “Technopath,” she said. “We really don’t need help from the Protectors.”
“It rather sounds like you do. And under the terms of our contract with the city—”
“Fine.” Alex took another drag of her coffee. “Officer, show them where the hard drives for the security cameras are kept.”
Technopath stepped into the room and froze. “Something very bad happened in here. So much damage...” They ran a hand along a shelf displaying video cameras and shuddered. “A localized EMP, most likely.”
“Is that even possible?” Alex asked. The last time a Special criminal had set off an EMP in the city, it had taken out all electronics and fried the power grid across fifteen blocks.
“Yes,” said Technopath, as the officer led them to the computer that stored the security camera footage. “But hitherto limited solely to major militaries. Even the syndicates don’t have it yet.”
“As far as you know.”
“Indeed.” Technopath reached out and touched the computer. “Shhh,” they said softly, and Alex rolled her eyes. Did Specials always have to make a big show of everything? “I know. You’ve been hurt very badly. But I want you to try to remember who hurt you. Show them to us if you can, and then we will let you rest...”
The monitor flickered to life, showing a burst of distortion. For just a moment, it cleared, and Alex caught a glimpse of what certainly did look like a robot, a shiny human-shaped metal figure. Then it was gone.
Technopath stood. “It seems I cannot help you after all,” they said, and tried to walk to the shop’s entrance.
Alex quickly stepped in their path. “No way. You got something from that footage.”
“I assure you—”
“Quit bullshitting. Why would someone set off an EMP in an electronics store they were robbing? Wouldn’t it fry the loot? And who would waste tech like that on a few grand in computer parts?”
“I’m quite ceratin I have no idea,” said Technopath.
“And that robot-looking thing. You know what that is.”
“This is Protector business.” Technopath tried to step around Alex, but she grabbed their arm.
“You quoted your contract to me before. Well so can I. And I’m demanding my right as the SCI representative on this case to be included in any Protector investigation.”
Technopath sighed. “Very well. But I must insist on the strictest confidentiality.”
Alex sighed. “Fine. For now, at least. Tell me what that was!”
Technopath lowered her voice so only Alex could hear. “I believe that was the Iron Lady suit.”
Deshawn scowled when he saw the text from Alex. It was just a word and a number, “Code 616,” but he knew that meant something big was happening. Six-one-six wasn’t a real police code, it was the unofficial code for Protector business. It meant Alex was going off the grid to help the good-guy Specials, and probably wasn’t going to contact the precinct again until she finished. It meant he had to run the SCI unit by himself, while she got to run around the city fighting some huge Special crime that the Protectors deemed beyond the capabilities of normal humans on their own.
So of course five minutes later the direct line to Alex’s desk got a call. There were only a few people in the city who could or would do that. Deshawn hoped it would be a precinct captain or the Commissioner with a big case that would be good for his career... but there was one option he really didn’t want to deal with, so that would be who it was.
He picked up the phone. “Lieutenant Alvarez’ desk, Sergeant Dawson speaking.”
A nasal, feminine voice replied brusquely, “Hold please for Mr. Masters.”
Deshawn could feel the prickle of sweat starting. Every once in a while, Masters would call with a tip he didn’t trust to his underlings. And given the SCI unit probably couldn’t function without the anti-Special equipment Masters’ companies developed, they had to be polite to him, no matter what the rumor mill said about why a real estate and construction tycoon would sink billions into developing weapons that could take down superheroes. Besides, his tips were always huge and almost always good, and he wouldn’t be the first mob boss to use the cops to take down his enemies. Deshawn was happy to play along, if it got more scum off the streets and kept them fighting each other instead of civilians or the cops.
“I was trying to reach Ms. Alvarez,” Masters said after a minute of hold music, in the tones of one who was used to immediately getting whoever or whatever he reached for.
“She is currently indisposed, sir. I’m in charge of the unit in her absence.”
“Hm. Very well. Mr. Dawson, is it?”
“Yes, sir. Sergeant Deshawn Dawson,” Deshawn hated having to call this scumbag sir. He wondered how Alex handled her meetings with him—she wasn’t exactly known for keeping it hidden when she didn’t like someone.
“Well, Mr. Dawson, we have been monitoring an employee in our shipping division who appears to have suddenly come into significantly more money than his position pays. Imagine our shock when we learned that a shipment of equipment scheduled for delivery to your unit had been diverted to a warehouse just south of the docks.” He gave Deshawn an address. “Public records state the warehouse is currently disused, and owned by Webb Holdings. I trust you know what that means and will act accordingly.”
He hung up, and Deshawn gave a whistle. Webb Holdings was a suspected front company for Tarantula, if Tarantula existed. That was a big if, of course. The rumors said that Tarantula was a secret council of crime bosses that between them controlled half the city, that they kept non-Special organized crime alive and thriving, that they had their fingers in everything from extortion and drug smuggling to prostitution and human trafficking, but beyond everything else, they ran the black market. If they existed, there was no better candidate for the anti-Special weapons that kept getting out into the street—and if they had a man inside Masters’ organization, it explained how.
This was too big to let sit. They needed to raid the place now. But SCI couldn’t move on this alone. Deshawn picked up Alex’s phone and began to make some calls.
“Iron Lady?” Alex tried to look calm, but Iron Lady was one of the heaviest hitters in the Protectors, with constantly evolving capabilities as her suit was upgraded. There was no way of knowing if SCI’s equipment was even up to taking on her latest model. “Are you sure?”
“No,” said Technopath. “It matches the most recent model in the Protector database, but it could be a knockoff or duplicate.”
“...And likewise there’s no way of knowing who’s piloting it. Either way, it looks bad for the Protectors,” said Alex. “If it’s not her, one of the Protectors’ most critical pieces of technology got stolen. If it is her, one of your senior members went rogue.”
“Or is being controlled.”
Alex stopped in her tracks. “Pheromona?” she asked.
“No,” said Technopath. “She’s immune. One of only a handful of people in the city for whom we know that with certainty, a status with which I’m sure you’re familiar.”
Alex felt the anger boiling up. She’d taken on Pheromona’s army with nothing but self-defense training, a black belt in a sport martial art, and a gun. The idea that she could have had an ally with power like Iron Lady’s—
“She could not have assisted you,” said Technopath. “The city was in complete disarray, and she was unable to access her suit physically. She also had not yet developed the capacity to access it remotely.”
“I don’t like being reminded of that time,” said Alex. “Things got ugly.”
“But you survived,” said Technopath. “You incapacitated Pheromona and injected her with Panacea’s serum. You are as much a hero as any Special.”
“I’m not a Special!” Alex snarled. “And I wasn’t a hero. Just a detective doing her job.”
“Exceedingly well, by all accounts.” Technopath didn’t react to Alex’s anger at all. Alex wished badly that she would.
“Yeah, I’m a real ace,” Alex said bitterly. “So let’s find Iron Lady.”
“Indeed,” said Technopath.
Big Jin was aptly named. He was six feet five inches of solid muscle, and seemed nearly that wide. His tattoos were a long story of gang membership and prison stays, and his walk the walk of someone who expected to leave footprints in anyone or anything that got in his way. The man next to him wasn’t actually a weedy, scrawny little nerd, his shipping clerk job notwithstanding, but practically everyone looked weedy and scrawny next to Jin.
Jin cringed in fear as the little old lady walked toward him. “Ms. Yao,” he began, trying to keep the shaping out of his voice. “The cops are—”
“I know,” she said, glacially calm. “Closing in on the warehouse. Is it emptied?”
“We’re working on it,” said Yao. “But they’ve cut off all the exits except—”
“The tunnel, yes. And not everything fits.”
“The boys are trying to take apart the sonic cannons, but I don’t think there’s anything they can do with the armored car in time.” He blanched. “Um, ma’am.”
Yao leaned on her cane and sighed. “Load some of the less-important weapons into the car and have someone try to drive it through the barricade. If they make it, good, if not, it’ll buy you some time. Now!” Jin flinched. “How did they learn about the warehouse?”
Jin glanced at the smaller man at his side, but kept his mouth shut.
“It wasn’t me!” the clerk sputtered. “I didn’t tell anyone! One of your guys must’ve talked!”
“Jin,” Yao said slowly. “You were arrested last week, were you not? And let go after only a day.”
“That’s right!” The clerk jumped on her comment immediately. “That has to be it, Jin told them!”
“I didn’t say anything!” Jin insisted. “I don’t know how they found out, but it wasn’t from me talking! They grilled me, but I didn’t say anything and they didn’t have anything to hold me on!”
“No!” The clerk’s eyes were wide with desperation. “It has to be him, it has to!”
“I see,” said Yao, and shot him.
Jin had just enough time to see a red mark appear between the clerk’s eyes before his body crumpled to the floor. I never even saw her draw the gun, Jin thought. “I—“
“He was too eager to throw you under the bus,” she said, tucking the gun back into her sleeve. “Even if he didn’t betray us, he clearly could not be trusted under any kind of pressure. Now, clean this mess up.”
“Uh...” Jin hesitated, afraid to ask, but it would be worse if he didn’t. “Do you mean the body, or the cops..?”
“Yes,” Yao said, turning and beginning to shuffle away. “I will report the situation to Tarantula. Oh, and thank your mother for that tea she sent me, it really did help my joints.”
Deshawn paused as he reached the corner. He’d been cut off from the rest of his SCI squad when that armored car tried to ram them, but the SWAT team they’d called in to take point should be just past this alley. He leaned around the corner quickly; it looked clear, but there was a dumpster that could have hidden two or three people behind it. He took a deep breath, and then rounded the corner gun first, eyes on the dumpster. He never even saw the booted foot that caught him on the back of the head, but then, it came from a third-story fire escape.
Olympia giggled as she bounced off his head and landed nimbly on her feet behind him. Deshawn staggered forward, blinking the black spots out of his vision, but managed to straighten and turn—only to realize he’d dropped his gun.
His eyes fell to it where it lay on the ground. It was just a few steps away, and Olympia was easily three times that far. But she was also lighter, uninjured, and just a little faster than a normal human, and he was still staggered by that kick. He examined her closely. She was wearing her usual getup: her blonde hair in a high ponytail, a black skintight leotard clinging close to her slim frame, her long, lithe limbs bare and smooth. He wondered what it would be like to touch them—fuck.
He realized what was happening only a moment before Pheromona finished climbing down the fire escape. Her powers had made it easier to notice Olympia’s sexy little body, but that was nothing compared to how he felt once he saw her. She was sex incarnate, the most perfect woman he’d ever seen, with a body built for porn, if they made porn parodies of Greek statues instead of just movies. She smiled, and he was instantly rock hard.
“Hello, Sergeant,” she purred, the vibrations of her voice running down his spine like he wished those perfectly manicured, blood-red nails would. “Let’s talk about what you can do for me.”
“Anything,” he said instinctively. And as much as the rational part of his brain was screaming at him to run, he knew that answer was true.