Star found himself sitting in another interrogation room late the next morning. Having already made his point the previous night, he used the provided chair instead of merely levitating. This meeting would determine whether or not he would take his team out of here. He would ask for information on Rook, and get an epinephrine treatment for Mach.
He had been waiting for nearly 2 hours for representatives of the NSB, the National Security Bureau, and he was starting to have trouble holding onto his patience. Breathing deeply to retain his composure, Star forced himself back to calm patience.
Edward Mantega, known to his fans as the charismatic giant Crash, was struggling hard to hold his temper in the face of a very irritating agent of the government of an other-dimensional USA. The utter emotionless on the agents face did little to conceal the obvious derision in his voice. "Mr. Mantega, if you won't cooperate with me, then I don't see how we can help you."
Crash sighed faintly. Faintly for a normal person anyway, from his cavernous lungs it would be clearly audible for twenty feet. "Agent Blair, if you won't cooperate with me then I don't see how you can help us, either. My name, by the way, is Crash. Only the IRS calls me Mr. Mantega."
Blair's voice fairly dripped annoyance. "There is no need for sarcasm Mr. Mantega. I want an explanation for the abilities you and your associates demonstrated earlier this morning, and I will have it!" Slowly, almost as if it required an effort of will, a sneer plastered itself on Agent Blair's face. "I will find your secrets Mantega. I will find out who you work for. If not from you, then from one of your friends; the female perhaps."
For the past hour Crash had been forced to listen to disbelief, conspiracy theories, and barely veiled threats against himself and his teammates, all the while sitting politely on a metal chair that was WAY too small to fit more than one buttock at a time. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply before looking back at the agent on the other side of the table. "Agent Blair," he smiled gently. "I can assure you that you have my utmost cooperation." Reaching out to grasp either side of the table in front of him, smoothly snapping the chains of the 4 pairs of handcuffs that bound a set of improvised wrist restraints made from several sets of ankle cuffs. "However, if you continue to threaten my teammates, I will become . . . upset." The quarter inch thick stainless steel turned slowly and noisily from a 4 foot by 3 foot table top into a rough wad about twice the size of a basketball.
Expression unchanging, Blair got out of his chair and backed to the door, and out of it.
Moments later, another man, easily identified as an agent by the NSB ID card on his black conservative suit. "Mr. Mantega, I'm Agent Richard Phillips, NSB. I would like to apologize for Agent Blair's behavior. He has been under a lot of stress lately, after Dark Day we have had a lot of terrorists using powers like your groups, and Agent Blair takes the protection of this country very seriously."
Face hard and angry, Crash glared at Agent Phillips. "I can appreciate that concern, Agent Phillips. I take the protection of my friends just as seriously." Another deep breath allowed Crash to tamp down his anger at Blair. "All we want is to get home. My team leader chose to give you a chance, but Agent Blair has made it difficult for me to trust your people. However, if you are going to help, then I can put up with a little aggravation."
Nightfall. Shadow could feel the energy flood his body. There was something different in this place, an unfamiliar sense to the darkness that made it heavier in his mind than the night back home.
The plan to get food from the vending machines hadn't worked. There were just too many people around to get away with breaking one of them, and security too tight to enter at night. He needed to get food, to find Star, and to establish a base. Not necessarily in that order.
First step: information. A map of the city so he could find his way around. Newspapers to get an idea of the local situation. His goals firmly in mind, Shadow descended the rear wall of the office building towards the alley below. Something tickled at his senses about two floors away. Trusting to instinct, the black clad figure slipped into a nearby shadow and sank himself into it to get a better look.
The woman was beautiful; slim yet voluptuous, wearing an elegantly simple blue satin sheathe, with waist length blonde hair. The man was just a bum, nearly 50, ratty hair that used to be red, but was now more grey than anything. The sight of the two of them fondling each other behind a dumpster was a real shocker, but that tingle at the back of Shadow's neck told him that something wasn't right. Something in him knew that the woman was a killer, and that the bum was dinner.
He waited; there was no relying on instinct when it came to dealing with things like this, and instinct was all he had right now. Resisting was difficult, it seemed every cell in his body was offended by the woman's existence.
Regardless, the homeless man didn't seem to detect anything amiss in the situation. His reaction as the blonde worked the hem of the tight blue dress up past bare skin and over her head was anything but disapproving. Disbelieving maybe, but not disapproving. The woman carefully folded the dress and tucked it into her small handbag on top of the dumpster, graciously showing herself off to her audience.
Smiling salaciously, she turned back to the man, pressing her full bosom against his filth encrusted clothes, and pressed him back against the side of the dumpster. He was holding on as tight as he could as she kissed him gently on the lips, the cheek, and then moving to his throat.
She put her arms around him, and pulled her head back, smiling sweetly as she changed. What was smooth pale skin turned nearly translucent, eyes glowed red from beneath half closed eyes, and her mouth opened wide to show fangs. The man in her grasp began to struggle, opening his mouth to scream, but the woman gripped him tight, forcing the air from his lungs and silencing his scream before it could begin. As her victim struggled against her bare skin, she prepared to rip out his throat with her fangs. The pain in the side of her head was a surprise. As was the brick wall.
Almost instantly, the blonde woman leapt away, her back to the wall 10 feet down the alley. She saw nothing in the shadowed alley that could have done this. She stood proud and arrogant before the unseen. "Whoever you are, you were a fool to have interfered in my feeding. Before, I was content to subsist on the thin blood of this gutter trash, but no more! I will bathe in your blood tonight. Show yourself and let me drink your terror!"
As though he took his form out of darkness, Shadow stepped into view. Clothed in black from head to toe, he moved like night itself, flowing into the dim light of the alley.
The homeless man stayed cringing by the dumpster, casting his eyes back and forth between the naked statuesque blonde who had been about to kill him, and the dark figure that may have just saved his life. He did the only thing that made sense. He ran. "Jesus H. Christ," he muttered "monsters and alien ninjas. Country really is goin' ta Hell."
Red eyes shone with animal rage in the darkness, boring into a ballistic plastic visor. Shadow could feel her will like a malignant force, seeking his eyes, his mind. He could feel her probing hatred stab into his head like a dagger, and sense it skidding painfully off of his psyche by a bare margin..
Snarling in frustrated rage, the woman curled her fingers into claws and pounced at him. Grabbing one of her extended arms at the wrist and elbow, Shadow twisted sharply, flinging her towards the wall across the alley, and helping her on the way with a force powered kick to the chest.
Seemingly unfazed by the impact, the woman pushed off the wall and landed a punch in her opponents chest, knocking him back into the opposite wall to a far greater effect. "Idiot," she hissed, "you think you can survive this night? I can smell the mortality all over you. No mere human can ever defeat a vampire!"
With that, she attacked again, fingers curled to rip out Shadows throat. Desperately, Shadow pushed off of the wall, under her arms and around her body, putting a charged punch into the side of her knee, knocking her support out, before leaping to the wall and pulling a shadow around him again.
The vampire stopped cold, staring at the spot where her adversary had vanished. She sniffed carefully and detected nothing. "Damn!" Grabbing her purse from the top of the dumpster, leaving herself exposed to a leap kick as Shadow sprang from his hiding place, his foot extended. The kick struck through the vampire, or at least the fog that had replaced her.
Shadow stood perplexed as the mist faded from the alley.
Rook had been given a pair of black denim jeans and a green t-shirt by Jim when he had been dismissed by Auriel. He had been escorted to a small bare room with 3 hard backed chairs and a water cooler to wait for Tom. Jim sat in one of the chairs, but several attempts to start a conversation had met with a mildly amused smile and continued silence.
The door opened and Tom entered. In a black tank top and blue jeans she seemed more nervous than during a rooftop escape in a hospital gown and casts. Jim came close to grinning watching her fidget. Rook wasn't sure what was wrong; possibly something to do with whatever healing process enabled her to heal two broken legs in half an hour.
Scratching at one elbow, she looked sullenly at Rook. "Thanks." she mumbled. "For, ya know, saving my life and all."
Something in the set of Tom's shoulders drew Rook's eye back to Auriel, standing in the doorway. "You don't need to thank me," up went the insulating layers of logic and nonsense. "it's my job. Besides," he grinned. "you helped me too, you brought me here."
Tom gave half a smile. "Let's go see if we can find your friends."
In his heart, he knew that Auriel was a good leader, that she cared deeply about her cause, and that her cause was her people. In his mind, he knew that that same quality meant that she was manipulating this situation, and using Tom to do it. In the same situation, Rook might even have done the same thing, but Tom was his friend, and he would not let his friends be used to control him.
Detective Arina Taylor trusted NSB Agent Blair about as far as she could throw a Buick. of course, she'd never met an Agent that she trusted. They tended to leave too many bodies on the ground in cases that should have never gone beyond purely local. Of course these days it was hard to find a cop that you could trust.
Which was why she was standing guard outside the door of a hospital room containing a prisoner who had seemed perfectly healthy until two Detectives came tearing out of an interrogation room yelling about a flying man. Shortly afterwards, Agent Blair and his NSB Field Team had come in and took the girl to the hospital; no reason given.
So here she was, watching the room, and the agents guarding the door.
Two hours ago, the NSB had escorted a scowling floor nurse out of the room and sealed off the corridor. Rumor was that the girl and her friends were suspected terrorists, but a friend at the lab had looked up the prints. These people had never been in any system at all. No criminal activity with the prints on files either local or federal (and that last had taken some work).
She knew she had to take the risk. She needed to know what the NSB was up to.
The guard had gone down the hall to the nurses' station, then to the bathroom. She had about 30 seconds before the patrol came by again, and then another 4 till the guard came back and looked in on the patient. 5 minutes at most.
It only took 15 seconds to get in the room. It was a normal private hospital room. The visitor chairs, table, and any plants had been moved out, leaving only the bed. The patient, a teenage Asian girl with short hair, was wrapped in bed sheets and had heavy straps across her chest, hips, and upper shins running over the sheets, cinching her hands to her sides. Wrist and ankle manacles run through the bed frame reinforced the restraint.
Detective Taylor stared intently at the face the files named Kelly Li, willing her to be some kind of answer to the detectives questions about the NSB, and the government behind them. I need your help Kelly Li, I need these answers, and I need you to help me.
"help me." The voice was weak, and at first Detective Taylor thought she was hearing her own thoughts in the darkened room. "help me, please." That was enough to trace the words to the hospital bed, and the patient/prisoner.
I am so getting fired for this. Taylor said to herself, going to the bed. If they don't shoot me first.
Star had been sitting in the same room for 4 hours when Agent Nicholas Blair sat down on the other side of the table. "Your name is Milton Cross. Is this correct?"
The agent's face was blank, but Star smiled politely as a matter of course. "That is my legal name, yes. I prefer Star however."
"A prisoner's preference is irrelevant. It is not NSB procedure to use nicknames when interrogating a suspect." A poker face that a stone might envy, and a pair of impenetrable black sunglasses, couldn't cover the sneer in his voice.
Star opened his smile a little more. "One of my team mates needs special medical care. Kelly Li requires frequent shots of epinephrine in order to maintain a quiescent state safely." If Blair could be formal, so could he. "Another is a minor who was asleep when we were arrested."
"It is apparent, Mr. Cross, that you have again failed to comprehend the nature of your situation. I will ask the questions, you will answer them to my satisfaction."
Stars friendly smile faded to cool disapproval, only barely keeping his power in abeyance. This was going to be a long day.
Crash was dealing with his third agent this morning. At 6 ft 10 inches, Agent MacGrady was by far the most threatening looking of all of them. Not that any normal human was a real threat to a Class H Exotic, but MacGrady definitely looked like he wanted to try. "I am told that you are strong, Edward Mantega." The agent had been standing for the last five minutes. It made him taller than Crash, and being looked down on by yet another arrogant official was getting on his nerves. "Strong and willing to make use of it. That is why I requested this assignment."
"Agent MacGrady, I believe I have been patient and cooperative under very trying circumstances." Crash kept an even tone in spite of his heartfelt desire to bend Agents Blair and MacGrady into a very intricate pretzel. "I assure you that my team and I have no hostile intentions towards your government."
MacGrady smiled mockingly. "Blair said the child is strong too. I will find him. I will get his scent, and then I will run him down."
Every mote of tension bled instantly from Crash's giant frame. "Agent MacGrady," he said carefully. "I would advise you to think at length before you speak again. It almost sounds like you are threatening Rook, the 14 year old minor arrested with us, with physical violence, and that would be very unfortunate."
The agent laughed menacingly. "I know you're kind. You become angry when your friends are threatened, but your anger is just a cover for fear. You do not want to kill, so you hide behind anger and pray that you can bluster your way around. Pray that the enemy does not sense your fear. Pray that the darkness does not swallow your heart." MacGrady walked closer to the ever-more irritable giant and leaned forward, bracing his hands on Crash's chest. "I will enjoy your despair, hero." he sneered
Crash smiled grimly at the tall human standing above him. "Three things you should know." Extending his will into the flow of time around Agent MacGrady, Crash slowed his reaction time. Raising his hand deliberately, he thumped the NSB Agent in the forehead, enough to cause pain, but not to break anything. With a metallic clang the tall man fell backwards. "First thing - . . . clang? Did you just say clang?" Crash stared down at the now prone man with deep startlement and confusion.
With a snarl, MacGrady leapt to his feet, altering as he went to a monstrous figure armored from head to toe in black steel shaped like a skeleton. The beast had short horns twisting upwards in a crown from his head, and long, white, flowing hair. Pulling out a long, straight dagger, he charged the stunned behemoth in the chair.
Reflex overtaking circumstance, Crash slowed the oncoming creature enough to block the arm holding the knife, and then punch it into the wall, cracking the concrete. Then came the next surprise. It got up. The creature that used to be a government agent took a wide stance, circling slowly, and Crash stood up too.
"This suddenly makes soo much more sense than it did a minute ago."
"Extreme Entertainment Network." Star said tiredly. "Just like the last 20 times you asked."
Agent Blair had an unusual way of sneering. He didn't use his face. This made it possible to not know he was sneering. If you were deaf. In a cave. On the other side of the state. With just such a sneer oh-so articulately implanted into his speech, he gave his own formula response. "And just like those other 20 times, Mr. Cross, that network DOES NOT EXIST! I will not accept some cockamamie fairy tale about dimensional travel, so it would be best if you started telling the truth. Once more Mr. Cross; Who do you work for?"
With a loud snap, the door to the interrogation room opened wide and filled up with a solid wall of muscle. Said wall ducked under the frame. "Star!" Crash said with his trademark grin. "I'd like you to meet my new bestest friend ever! This is BEA Agent Paul MacGrady!" With that, he pulled seven feet of menacing black armor and metal spikes into the room and tossed it next to Blair. "He's taking a little nap now, poor tyke got all tuckered out."
Blair tumbled from his chair on top of MacGrady's armored form, and grabbed a bracelet under his coat sleeve. In less than a xecond, the two had transformed into a miasma of darkness, and vanished without a trace. "Well," Star blinked. "that was unexpected."
"Next move boss?" All trace of humor was gone from Crash's face.
"Escape." Star responded. Equally seriously. "Find the rest of Alpha, find allies, get home."