From the Story Arc: Three Days In December

Previous Story in the Arc: The Nickle Tour by Bestial Boy (Monday, December 11, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dragon's Tooth by Bestial Boy (Tuesday, December 12, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006)

((Written with John Murdock))

Lunch turned out to be two Martinis short of a three Martini lunch, although Zach's metahuman metabolism allowed him to drink even the most hardened Washingtonian under the table, and he was pretty sure Gremlin could match him drink for drink. But although superheroes were not exactly rare in DC, they were nothing like a common as they were in Paragon City either, and lunch kept getting interrupted with tourists wanting autographs.

A somewhat embarrassing number of those wanted his autograph on Green Glow ads, much to Gremlin's amusement. On the one hand, it was flattering. On the other...well he was kind of glad Bella had decided to quit the modeling gigs. It had been something they had sorely needed to do, back when Moscow was keeping them on such a short leash that it was getting hard to keep borscht on the table, but now...

His phone rang, with Bella's non-emergency signal. Since there weren't any pens being shoved in his direction, and Gremlin was concentrating on putting away the last of his two-pound steak, he answered it. "'Sup, babycakes?"

"This was too good to keep, fellow Commissar. Just took a personal visit from Ms. Llewellyn an hour ago. Guess what?"

"GE shaved his head and joined a Shaolin temple?"

Her infectious laugh bubbled over the phone. "We are now the proud, full owners of the MMS Sanctuary. She just signed it over to us and will be paying rent to us in the future. Seems one of those alternate-earth scientists that Johnny and Petro rescued that didn't want to sign on with us was just what she was looking for. And his idea of a signing bonus was for her to give us the boat."

Zach's eyebrows hit his hairline, and his jaw fell a little open. "That's...some signing bonus," he said, dazed. After all, it wasn't every day that someone handed you the keys to a multi-million-dollar commercial container vessel....

"Apparently, he's some scientist, and very grateful to be out of wherever Petro got him from. Anyway, she's all ours, which means that if we feel like it, we can sail her anywhere. Not that I intend to. Not after what Thea did when the Ghost Ship decided she was Mommy. It took half of M.A.G.I. to get the thing off the grain elevators."

Zach facepalmed. He remembered that. Why the Ghost Ship should have decided to follow little Althea Nagy around the port was anyone's guess...but in frantically trying to get away from it, she'd led it right up the side of some of the dockside buildings, where it had lodged wedged between two of the grain silos. Well, at least it had been out of the way of dock workers for a while...

"That's all I got, sweets. We can celebrate being a proper collective again when you get back. Just let's not rename her the Potemkin, ok?"

He laughed. "You got it, Commissar. See you in a couple days."

He folded up his phone and stuck it in his pocket. Gremlin looked a little curious, but didn't ask. Instead, he leaned back in his chair a bit and looked meditative. "What I am not understanding, green brother, is why Washington is not overrun with super-powered criminals."

Zach grimaced a little. "Money, my comrade, and lots of it. Every room of every building of any consequence has some kind of super-top-secret mezz-generator in it. I had that demonstrated to me when I first started working the Capitol, and not even I am immune to them; got hit with a jolt that put me out faster than a cheap drunk with a bottle of Stoli."

Gremlin's brow furrowed. "So why are these not everywhere, and putting us out of business? I am eager to retire and find green devushkas to adorn hot tub with."

"Like I said, money. Same reason why we don't have those PPD Drones everywhere. Very, very expensive to create, install, and operate. Fine for protecting politicians, but their constituents have to make do with us." Zach grimaced. "And it's some kind of top-secret tech on top of that. I gathered from the little they told me, it's really short-range and requires some heavy in-place installations...."

Anything else he was about to say was interrupted when both their comms went off. Gremlin fumbled for his, his face shocked. Which made sense; he couldn't have been expecting a comm call here.

But Zach had had this happen plenty of times since he got to DC. Registered metas automatically got their comm freqs sent to the DC PD as soon as they hit the city limits, standard Freedom Corps protocols. There were a lot fewer metas here than PC, but mezz generators notwithstanding, there were always some criminals that couldn't resist the temptation of so many fat targets here. He'd answered a few calls himself on previous trips to DC; nothing too major, but still. This wasn't some robber that could fly or a mugger made of stone. For both their comms to go off at once meant that an all-points to metas had just been issued. This might be bad.

He keyed his comm on. "Bestial Boy, CCCP, on detached duty from Paragon City. What's the threat?"

The voice of the dispatcher sounded shaken..."We have five metahumans in the Pentagon parking lot. So far, there are a half dozen casualties, all Pentagon personnel. You and...uh...Kremlin Gremlin are the closest--"

"Gremlin's with me, he's CCCP too. We're on the way; shoot us the locator."

The directional blip lit up on his comm at the same time that Gremlin's did the same. "Car," Zach said succinctly. Gremlin nodded.

The waiter, who had seen them take the call, waved them out the back door. This was an emergency; bills could be settled up later. Or not at all, the few times Zach'd had a meal interrupted by one of these, he'd come back later to discover the bill had mysteriously disappeared...those who were not protected by the mezz generators tended to be very grateful for metahuman presence. Zach used his keyring and popped the auto-release on the trunk of the rental as they sprinted for his car; CCCP uniforms didn't need a phone booth to change into. They both grabbed their flack jackets with attached capes and the tac-belts, shrugging them on over their civilian clothing. The capes might seem like an affectation, but they actually performed the duty of signaling "probably registered hero" at a distance to any nervous civilian or police sharpshooter.

Though it did make Zach relieved that the CCCP insignia was that big gold star and not the old hammer and sickle. There'd been a couple rogue Russians that had turned up here and there sporting the old emblem. The star made people think twice before shooting.

Chatter on the comm made him grit his teeth and kicked his adrenaline into high gear. Whoever, whatever this was about, the perp had planned it well. The Pentagon parking lot was a good place for an ambush. Inside a perimeter of Police Drones, armed guards and weapon emplacements, yet outside the mezz generators, open to the sky, it was possible for someone who knew what he was doing to drop straight down into the middle of it.

Zach and Gremlin leapt towards the parking lot, almost in a 'leap frog' fashion; this allowed one to cover the other, while the man in the air plotted his next landing. Zach concentrated, exuding his "murk" when he hit the ground. One more leap would put him square in the middle of the action. From the looks of things, it was going to be a lot of action. Several fires had already broken out, mostly from cars that had exploded. He felt his stomach drop, as there were also a number of bodies in military uniforms and civilian clothing sprawled in positions that told him they wouldn't be getting up again. At the center of the carnage were five people; one was throwing cars and civilians about with abandon, while the rest had automatic rifles and some sort of energy shield around them. Zach kicked off hard from the ground, aiming to land about 40 yards away and behind the attackers; Gremlin, whom he'd fought alongside for years now, had already anticipated this, and altered his trajectory to match.

On his way down in that last leap, Zach spoke crisply into the comm. "Bestial Boy and Kremlin Gremlin on scene and engaging. Hold the perimeter." No point in putting more potential hostages and casualties on the ground. Out of the corner of his eye he caught several small, hovering camera-bots already homing in on him and Gremlin. News vultures. Already on scene. His lip curled a little, then he turned his concentration to the threat at hand.

He had expected to catch the perps off guard. No such luck.