Avalanche – Snippet 43
John was so out of it that he almost missed the signs of what they were heading towards. A shadow on a rooftop. The scuffle of a boot against concrete. The couple talking on the street corner that were trying a little too hard to keep their body language neutral. It clicked for John all at once that he and Sera were walking into a trap of some sort. He had become reliant on his shared battle-sense with Sera to warn him of danger; that, combined with how exhausted the two of them were had kept him nearly oblivious to his surroundings beyond the obvious and mundane details. Getting sloppy, old man. But there was that, too; they were obviously being watched by unfriendly eyes…but they weren’t in any immediate danger. He stretched out his telempathy to the couple, and the man on the roof; all of them were wary, but there wasn’t any malicious intent there.
Sera hadn’t noticed any of it; she didn’t have his enhanced senses or his counter-surveillance and urban survival training. Not wanting to tip off the surveillance that he was on to them, John kept silent, only speaking to Sera through their connection.
Darlin’, we’re bein’ followed. I’ve spotted at least three—make that four, five—people along our route that are payin’ extra attention to us. All of ’em are armed. Don’t look around, it’ll just give us away. If we gotta fight, I’d rather we surprise the hell out of ’em an’ come out swingin’. So far, though…they don’t seem to want to hurt us.
Why would…could it be that someone or something at that Program installation recognized you for what you are?Â And survived to tell the tale?
If they were Program, I would’ve picked up on it. None of them are metahumans, s’far as I can tell. Not Blacksnake, either; too restrained. To be perfectly honest, this whole thing smells—
Before John had a chance to finish the thought, a convoy of five black SUVs rounded the corner at the far end of the street, just past where the block for his squat ended. They pulled up to the curb next to where John and Sera were standing very quickly, then stopped in a cloud of concrete dust. John knew what the license plates would have printed on them before the first SUV had even finished coming around the corner.
“Government.” With a hard blink to bring up his HUD, and then a thought and a few eye movements, John brought his subvocal microphone online. “Overwatch: Murdock to Vickie, urgent,” he said without actually speaking. “Got a situation, here. Want your eyes and ears on it, see how it develops. Might be trouble.”
There was a moment, probably seeming longer than it actually was.Â Then a spray of curses, that sounded Russian-y.Â “Roger.Â Eyes and ears live, recording commenced.Â Sending stealthed spy-eye for redundancy.Â Rebroadcasting to CCCP and ECHO: Bella.Â Commissar notified.”
All of the doors of the SUVs opened at just about the same time; nearly identical looking men in suits with ear pieces connected to radios stepped out of the vehicles and took up positions around the street. Some were facing in towards John and Sera, but most were looking outward; setting up a cordon, of sorts. John heard one of the suits speak quietly into a microphone hooked surreptitiously into his jacket sleeve. “Area secure.”
A final person stepped out of the middle SUV. His suit was more expensive than the ones worn by the rest of the men; dark navy blue, well-tailored with a crisp-collared white shirt and matching tie underneath. A tiny flag pin in the lapel was the crowning irony to the outfit. This guy was the management.
“John Murdock, Seraphym,” the man said in the officious tone of someone used to having his orders followed. “I’m Agent Gibson with the National Security Agency.” He reached into his jacket, producing two folded pieces of paper. “I’ve been authorized by Title IV, section 120 of the National Security Act, pertaining to metahumans on American soil, along with authorization from the Attorney General to take both of you into custody. These are your copies of the warrants and other attendant paperwork. There are some important people that would like to ask you some questions.”
Sera’s fires flared, and her wings half-spread.Â “I do not believe you,” she said flatly.Â “Do you think you can hold me if I do not wish to be held?” All of the government agents in suits visibly stiffened; the less disciplined among them clearly reached for weapons, only stopping short when Gibson put his hand up.Â Â “And do not count on my reputation for non-lethality.Â I do not answer to you.”
John put his hand over Sera’s. “Let’s see what they want, darlin’. Might be interestin’.” John still wasn’t feeling any danger through the battle-sense; if he did, he didn’t anticipate that he and Sera would have too many problems freeing themselves. Trying to force their way out of the situation right now, though…could make things messy. And not just for them; for the neighborhood, for the CCCP, and even for ECHO. “I’ll tell you this, though, Agent Gibson. We’re tired, hungry, an’ smell like a couple of days worth of fightin’. Try not to piss us off any more than absolutely necessary. Agreed?”
“You do know they are going to use just that against you, right?”Â That was Vickie.Â “They might not actually torture you…yet…but they don’t have to give you food, water, or any rest.”
“I think we can accommodate that perfectly well, Mr. Murdock. The middle vehicle has had…alterations made to it so that the Seraphym may be comfortable in it.”
“They don’t have to keep breathin’, either. Don’t worry, Vix; I know their kind an’ their tricks. We’ll be alright. It looks like they came prepared; or their version of it, anyways. If they don’t take us seriously, we’ll get out on our own. Keep your ears open.”
“Good. Also, y’can address her as Mrs. Murdock, if you’re goin’ to talk to her. I’d highly suggest stayin’ respectful.” Without another word, John and Sera walked to the middle SUV and got in, Sera first while John held the door open for her. Let’s see what these assholes want, an’ if it’s worth wastin’ our time.
They were taken to a hotel, not some sort of detention center.Â Although it appeared that every floor of the place had been taken over by the suits, there were at least multiple exits (guarded, but when had that ever stopped either of them?), and no bars on the windows.Â They were taken to a room, allowed to shower and given something to eat and drink.Â Sera had looked at the food and drink dubiously.Â “How do I know this is not drugged?” she demanded.
John poked at the tray. “One way to find out.” He speared a piece of steak and popped it into his mouth, chewing and swallowing. “There. If I die or go loopy, you’re set to inherit my vast fortune.” He set upon his own steak, speaking between chews and swallowing; John really was hungry. “I figure that this is a lot of effort to go to if they just wanted to go all ‘rendition’ on us. If we were in real danger, I also figure we’d know.” Battle-sense would kick in, hopefully, darlin’, he added mentally. He didn’t want to talk about that out loud; the room was no doubt bugged, and there was no reason to give these government suits a full rundown on their capabilities.
Sera poked at her food doubtfully, and glared in the direction of the closed door, but finally hunger got the better of her and she joined him.Â Even with the war on, the steak here was top notch. I would rather that I did not need to eat or drink, she told him, resentment in her “tone.”Â It is one less hold to have over us.
Same could be said ’bout a lot of other things, darlin’…but they can still be fun. He lightly elbowed her, then leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
“Vix to JM.Â I want you to take Sera’s headset and smash it, please.Â I am 99% sure they can’t crack it, but I want to be 100% sure they get no chance.”
“I can do you one better, kiddo. I’ll ash it when I take a shower.” When he had first had the subvocals installed, it had been weird listening to others; voices took on a tinny and mechanical sound through whatever process translated the signals into actual speech. Still, it was damned handy for communicating on the sly. He made as if to caress the side of Sera’s face and palmed the tiny headset and microphone.Â If their handlers had noticed it, then noticed later it was gone, too bad.Â It would be too late for them to do anything.