The Hood & the Wolf Chapter 4

The Interrogation Room

THE DIRECTOR

You know, that I was lucky to here that Espada was taking a gap year to figure out what she wanted to study. I thought ‘Yay! That’s one full-time superhero on the clock, and it’s the most powerful one!’

Then I turn on the twelve o’clock news to see her almost knock a plane out of the sky. What I appreciate even less, is hearing about it from said twelve o’clock news.

I kick my feet on the monitor as I watch TV on what is supposed to be one of the most high-tech computers in the world. One would think that means a pretty good resolution but apparently, we need a better screen for that. Technology still confuses me.

As Director, I like to take my time eating pieces of chocolate as I watch newscasters talk about my Espada.

There’s two whose names I would remember if they didn’t have the same personality. They’re supposed to be in disagreement, but it always sounds like they’re in agreement. Is that how the news is supposed to be? It used to be different, I could have sworn like maybe… two hundred years ago?

In reality it’s just mean-spirited ranting about people they don’t like. Even when they are fighting, it usually devolves into a contest to see who can say it louder.

My fingers twitch as the man with greasier hair than John Travolta, goes on about how, these ‘superhumans,’ as they’ve been labeled, are one big accident away from being a super-threat.

“For the past few years, the superhuman gene has plagued homes across America. Teenagers and children gaining powers that make them into ‘local heroes’ or freaks of nature. But how are the parents who make up the foundation of our society supposed to defend themselves when kids are able to just fly away? When they can break down locked doors? Teleport anywhere in the world?”

This hardly seems like stuff the news anchor should be talking about before cutting to the weather.

“We need a new way to control our young, to defend ourselves, our forefathers gave us the right to bear arms because we needed to be able to protect ourselves. Putting kids in tight costumes and calling them superheroes are not how we do that; life isn’t comic books and action movies! Especially when they’re nearly knocking planes out of the sky.

“The mayor’s office and S.I.L.A.S. would have us believe we don’t need to worry, yet in her first week the heiress to the Burke fortune needs a vicious vigilante to stop her from smacking a plane out of the sky.”

I groan to myself as they cut to the clip of Espada narrowly missing a collision with a plane. How come no one’s talking about how that plane shouldn’t have been flying over the city to begin with? How come no one wants to talk about the pilot that got arrested for even being over there?

Of course, lets blame the kid instead, if only the writers remembered that said kid’s family owns their news network.

I mean, come on, she didn’t actually hit the plane, she just almost did.

I chew a little slower on my piece of chocolate when the woman starts to speak. Her shoulder pads belong back in the 30s… where they should have died.

She complains, “She was controlled by another superhuman, are we supposed to worry about that now? Why are our children’s movies coming to life before our eyes? What did S.I.L.A.S. have to say about this?”

“No comment,” her co-anchor answers.

I grumble to myself, “I bet they don’t bother the Burkes with this crap.”

“You know, in this backwards state, if someone steals your gun and commits a crime with it, you get in trouble, reprimanded, why don’t we hold our government to the same standard? Their gun was stolen in the middle of Aegis City, yet still there’s no word from anyone about that, is there? Is S.I.L.A.S. supposed to protect us, or are they another overfunded waste of taxpayers’ dollars and-”

I change the channel before I get really irritated. Sometimes I’m all for free speech, and other times I think about how people who don’t know a goddamn thing should keep their mouths shut.

I don’t think I was made for this era.

I’m scrolling through channels when my assistant comes with the boy who actually works at this console. He’s superhuman, a technopath, not a fighter.

She comes up behind me and tells me, “Director, we have a situation that requires your attention.”  She’s so formal, but unlike everyone else, she’s formal even when I’m not around and I respect the dedication.

“And um, I uh,” the boy stutters. His name is James and he gets so nervous around me, it’s actually cute. “I need my seat back, sir- I mean ma’am, Director, ma’am.”

I chuckle and stand up with my bag of chocolates in my hands. It accounts for my lunch during my thirty-minute break. My assistant looks at the chocolates and gets this puzzled look on her face.

“I thought you were dieting,” she tells me.

“Don’t make me stab you, Susan.”

“My name’s not Susan.”

“It is now,” I inform Susan, earning a roll of her eyes. She’s used to my threats, I wouldn’t actually stab her, things around here would fall apart without her, but I will still call her Susan.

Thank god, she can stand my sense of humor, it’s gotten pretty out of control in this century.

I turn to James, he’s a smart kid that I plucked right out of college, after he graduated with a masters in several fields of computer science or whatever degrees they were. Lucky, I got him before some even tech company scooped up to his powers to make more billions.   

I spin around his chair for him. This is his work area, a supercomputer all his own for a superhuman with computer powers. Something about a computer that works as fast as him, or close enough, is exciting. I know he’s called a technopath but I barely know what that means.

“Here you go, James,” I say as I walk past him, patting him on the back as I walk out of his computer room.

Susan follows me without me having to ask, and tells me, “We have a serious situation that needs your advisement.”

I figure if it’s serious, it’s probably going to need me in the field, so I start heading down these white corridors towards the hangar with the helicopters. We really have to give this place a new paint job, it’s dizzying.

I tell her, “Get me up to date, Susan.”

I can feel the glare coming from her, so I look over at her glasses and the bun she has her ginger hair in.

Susan informs me that, “There’s a hostage situation at St. Samuel’s Cathedral in North Aeg.” St. Samuel’s Cathedral, I hate that there’s one of those here too.

“Who would rob a church?” is the first thought that runs through my head and out loud.

Susan shakes her head and reads off her tablet, which is full of the information she keeps me up to date on. She corrects, “Not a robbery, more like a bunch of religious psychos. We’d call them terrorists but they’re known small time criminals. Working theory, their leader had a psychotic break and the police called for us because the leader seems to be blasting rays from his hands. Obviously, they thought we would be better prepared.”

The huff I make is audible as I smirk. Now’s the chance to make up for the blunder that happened yesterday. I want to catch the criminal before they get away, not later after the fact.

“They’re right,” I say, and order Susan to, “call the team together to meet at the church. Tell Espada specifically to give the Hood a call, and see if he comes.”

“She has his number?” My assistant is as surprised as I was to hear about it.

“Apparently, she coaxed it out of him over ice cream.”

I wish I had thought of that.

SAINT LUCIFER

I don’t know if I ever believed in God when I was growing up, but I believed in the devil. Lucifer, that’s one of the many names they gave him, depending on which book that is. Stories about the devil were so interesting. People were scared of him in books as much as in real life, but in the books, he never seemed to do anything.

Let’s paint a picture. A beautiful, naked girl is walking through a garden. She’s defenseless, not that educated, and doesn’t have any friends to protect her.

Then we have Lucifer, assuming he’s a snake, which I always have, who’s a powerful archangel, God’s favorite at the time, but also secretly the root of evil. Now what does he do when he sees this beautiful, defenseless, naked girl wandering through the garden?

He teaches her how to think.

Don’t forget, the snake didn’t force her to eat the apple, he taught her the logic and forethought to decide for herself whether or not she wanted it. The consequences of the apple taught good and evil. This is a creature of evil, a man who teaches free thought, this is the guy the church is all upset about.

This means that he was evil in the way old Blackbeard was, evil in image. I tried doing that growing up, being evil in image when I was trying to build my own established gang, as if that makes any real money.

After a few beatings I found out that that doesn’t work. I can’t be like Lucifer, I can only look like him. I have to actually kill people to scare them, and I need to scare them to make sure that they pay my gang protection fees and buy our drugs. The Red Devils I call them, not that original, but it keeps with a theme.

We were making good cash until this vigilante started shooting all of us, scaring some guys so bad that they quit the life. It was bad enough when the cops started cracking down hard but they at least have rules.

The Hood doesn’t have any rules, and now he’s got friends in a bunch of superpowered high schoolers or college students? Whatever. How is any poor guy supposed to make money off these mean streets?

I get so riled up thinking about how some snot nosed princess, heiress to billions, is the media frontwoman for the supers that are supposed to take down people like me. She has no idea of why people turn to drugs and crime, why people need to pick a side in what the cops call, ‘gang warfare.’

For god’s sake, everyone just thinks we’re animals. It’s as if there was no good reason to turn to less legal means to survive.

But hey, you call someone the devil enough times, and they become one.

The Savaage came to me first, a woman with black eyes that looked deep into my soul. Scared the shit out of me and the few boys I got left before they could even wolf whistle. She gave us weapons to even the playing field. All we had to do was pick a place, and make some noise at a specific time so they could watch.

I knew just the place.

“Boss, hey boss!”

I open up my eyes and take off my headphones. I look up at my boy, Ridge, looking down at me with one of the laser guns that woman gave us. He’s looking down at me as I was sleeping in one of those the long rows everyone sits at in church. Can’t remember for the life of me what they’re called.

I didn’t sleep much, had to get up early to get here before morning mass. Now I’m just waiting until two o’clock, that’s what the lady wanted. I don’t know why though, maybe Jeopardy was on.

Ridge tells me, with his big eyes going around, “Boss, the people are really freaking out! What are we waiting for?”

I bring my arms behind my head as I remind him, “We’re waiting for the right time, remember, the lady wanted us to make some noise at two.”

“Two? What, does she want to watch Jeopardy?”

“That’s what I thought!”

He shakes his head at me and nudges me with his gun. “Come on, do something, scare them a little bit. Let them see you in that get-up they’ll be too scared to whine and cry.”

“Ugh, fine,” I complain.

As I sit up, I tell him, “You know, you’d be a terrible parent, got no patience for crying.” He shrugs at me like I’m lunatic as I walk past him. While I am, that does not change the fact that I am not wrong.

We got all the people in the rows in the back, this wasn’t a busy Sunday mass, North Aeg is not known for its believers. Still, we got them all blindfolded and everything.

I walk before them in the middle aisle, listening to them cry and whimper and I think of one thing, Ridge has to grow some goddamn patience. I don’t know what the hell he bothered me for. I was into some deep thinking.

Regardless, my other boys, my small gang of magnificent seven, are all looking antsy. None of them got any patience. 

I grab hold of an empty row and drag it into the aisle. I stick my boot in the seat as I look at everyone with their arms and legs bound, their eyes blindfolded, all sitting on their knees.

I order them to pull their blindfolds down. When no does it, because they’re too busy crying and not listening, I take my laser gloves, my new sweet laser gloves, and point them to heaven almighty. I shoot the ceiling scaring everyone and getting their attention.

I yell at them, “Take down your damn blindfolds! Damn deaf Catholics.”

They all do and they are all terrified, just how I like them, but the head priest, Father Keith, when he takes his blindfold off, he’s more shocked than surprised.

The old white wrinkly priest looks me up and down before he questions, “Are you wearing my clothes?!

I should have mentioned, I indeed raided his closet and dressed like a priest. For two reason, poetry, and curiosity. I quite like the way the linens feel.

“And what did you do to it?”

I also spray painted a pentagram for the devil and such, again, poetry.

I gesture over my clothes, as I tell Father Keith, “This is poetic justice, against you, Father.”

Me? What did I do to deserve this, for you to bring this upon me and my parish?”

I wish he wouldn’t act like he doesn’t know, but I guess I expected it. It’s been a while so I bet the bastard forgot me.

I take my foot off the seat, and begin pacing back and forth, so when I’m done with my story, I can dramatically have my eyes fall on him. I like pomp and I like circumstance, sue me.

I explain to them all, “A very charitable benefactor gave us the incredibly badass sci-fi weapons you see in our disposal. The only catch was that at two o’clock today we had to use them in a very public manner, and I thought why not pay you back, father.”

Again, he repeats, “What did I do?!

“You see, father, when I was a young boy I was orphaned-”

“Poor boy,” the priest interrupts to be sarcastic.

“Don’t interrupt,” I threaten with a glowing point of my finger. I’ll admit I did not know it would do that, but I’m not complaining because it scared the shit out of him.

“Now, I was a poor orphan boy, looking for a home, and I came to this church, father,” and out of the corner of my eye I think I see Father Keith shaking, how I want him, but I can’t look at him yet. “When I came to this church, I came for help, safety, guidance, and I received none,” a line for which I dip my head down, “I was turned away to the streets,” and I bring my hands to my chest, “and forced to turn to crime, to become Saint Lucifer!” I raise my fist into the air and pose after stating my new nickname.

I look around and my gang buddies are shaking their heads. I should never call them that out loud. Okay, time to wrap this up.

“So now, I have decided to take revenge for my misfortune, on the priest who turned me away,” and I lay my eyes on him and point my burning finger at, “you Father Keith!

The priest eyes go wide and his jaw drops, baring his top teeth in shock. He blurts out, “I’m not Father Keith!”

“Wha?” What?

“Father Keith moved to another city years ago, I’m Father Daniel,” the new priest informs me.

“Shit,” I curse as I turn my head to the side.

Ridge facepalms and complains, “Goddamn it, Sam, you couldn’t even check to see if the guy was the same guy?!

I wipe my cheek with my hand and admit, “Eh, I really fucked up on this one, oh well.”

I blast a hole in the priest’s face.

ZAP!

Everyone starts screaming.

Ridge and the boys too. “What the hell, Sam?! I thought we were waiting until two!

I shrug and pull back the sleeve over my watch. “Eh, it’s ten of, I don’t think ten minutes is going to make a difference now, all the poetry is gone.”

“Are you saying we should shoot everyone?” Ridge asks for clarification. \

God, it’s like I got to spell everything out for this guy.

“Yes,” I say as I make a presenting gesture with my hands. “Do, as you will-

BANG!

“-Gaw!

The bang of the bullet hitting Ridge must have masked the shattering of the window as someone crashes in with smoke grenades. They’re the fastest fucking smoke grenades I’ve ever seen, though I haven’t seen any outside of a video game.

My boys go to shoot blindly, but as they do, I hear this sizzle and the cracking of ice. At the same time, I hear the pinging of lasers hitting something then going faint, kind of like when we tested them on brick walls and they did barely anything.

I feel extreme heat as I see a fireball blow away my guys through the smoke. I hear regular bullets come really close to me until-

On your knees,” I’m told as a gun is pressed against the back of my head.

“What, do I smell bad? I took a shower,” I tell the not-really-scary machine voice. My legs are kicked from behind so I fall to my knees and the barrel is pressed harder against my temple.

As I wait on my knees the smoke clears and see the ice wall lying between my boys and the hostages. Standing over my boys is a bunch of superpowered smucks.

The one I saw on the news, Espada, she dashes over to me and swats the gun away from my head. I turn around to see the Hood standing right behind me.

Son of a bitch, I was just thinking of him.

Wait, why didn’t he shoot me? That’s kind of his thing.

“Calm down, I’m not going to kill him, I need to question him first,” the Hood assures the smuckiest super-smuck of them.

She crosses her arms, and I put my hands underneath my armpits, slowing aiming my laser gloves at her and the Hood. She questions her buddy, “Then why did you have a gun to his head then?”

“So ,he wouldn’t try to shoot us with his gloves,” the Hood states, proving that he was thinking as he should, because that is exactly what I am doing. “Like he is now.”

“Shit in my breakfast.”

He punches me, or maybe she does, no, it had to be him, the hand was a cold metal. I fall on my stomach, my hands to the ground on reflex to push myself up.

Before I can move any further, they both bring their feet down on both of my hands. Let us say I screamed like a little girl.

ESPADA

“Well, that was good team work at least,” I tell the Hood. He glances at me with that helmet, and it annoys me to no end that I can’t see through it. I want x-ray vision.

“Was it really?” he questions. “It took us way to long to get in here, either one of us could have done it faster on our own?”

I cross my arms and look at him. “Our own?

“Me by myself, or you by yourself,” he clarifies and I throw up my hands in mock surrender. “I’ve done this a hundred times and you have superspeed. We shouldn’t have waited for the other two, or even S.I.L.A.S. for that matter.”

“If something goes wrong, we don’t get blamed for it with S.I.L.A.S. here, how is that not worth it to you?” I ask him.

“I don’t have a problem with owning up to my fuck-ups,” he says before walking away from me.

“Good talk,” I mutter to myself.

I leave the bad guy on the floor as the S.I.L.A.S. agents come in, evacuating everyone and coming to clean up the one casualty. That could have been avoided, but someone doubted my strategy, and it wasn’t the Hood.

And she doesn’t seem very broken up about it either.

If I had just ignored Marie I probably could have taken out everyone, just swept through these guys.

I look over at Tommy and Marie, talking as Marie bounds all the bad guys with ice. I walk over, thinking that as the vast majority of hostages are going home, maybe a good thing to do as team leader would be to compliment them.

Even if we didn’t do the best job.

I walk over and tell them, “Good job guys, this could have been a lot worse, but we stuck to the plan and I think we did good.” I hope it didn’t sound as robotic and forced as it felt.

Now when Tommy turns around, he smiles at me with that goofy face of his, looking as if he’s about to agree, until Marie tells me to, “Oh fuck off.”

Even with the ice over her head, I can understand her clear as day. She walks away from me, knocks into my shoulder, and skulks off.

I turn to Tommy and ask, “What is that bitch’s problem? Is she mad because we lost one person, because that’s not my fault.

Tommy shrugs and tells me, “Maybe she thinks its hers, she probably didn’t realize you meant good job, because… you know… we fucked up.”

“But that’s not my fault!

Tommy puts his hands up in surrender. “I know! I’m not saying it was… I think she just doesn’t like you, kind of always seems like she has it out for you because… also… as you know… she’s always been a nice to me.”

I watch the back of Marie’s head as she storms out, like she always does whenever a mission I lead is over. I can’t understand why the hell she’s always a jerk to me. She’s nicer to the Hood and she thinks he’s a serial killer!

I mean, she’s not that wrong.

Speaking of the Hood, I hear him getting defensive of the prick who called himself Saint Lucifer. How they come up with these names, I have no idea, but he wants to interrogate him and the S.I.L.A.S. agents are trying to take him away.

I don’t know when she got in here, but Claire is already saving her agents from him.

He gets in her face, but she’s made it clear to everyone to never interfere with their discussions, so I only watch with my arms crossed. I hear Tommy comes up next to me to listen to them too.

The Hood tells her, or more so demands of her, “That’s my catch your men are taking away.”

“Yes, and you can interrogate him,” Claire says with a shake of her shoulders, “in my interrogation room.” I can hear the audible growl come out of his mouth, but she has none of it. She offers to him, “I’ll let you do whatever you want, but I get to be there as long as I want, there’s no other choice.”

Really?

Really, what are you gonna do, Clay, fight me here when I have an army behind me?” Clay, huh? Just abnormal enough a name for him.

The two stare each other down, trying to get the other to yield. Claire tells him, “You can’t avoid this, Aegis City needs a team if today proved anything, a team that has you working on it instead of with it like a cheap booty call.”

The Hood pulls back, “Not the analogy I would make… you won’t get in my way?”

Claire shakes her head. “I trust you to do your job, like I said, I just want to be there…” Claire leans it to his ear, and I listen in closer. “I want to see if you’re a chip off the old block.”

What? What the fuck does that mean?

Like, I know what the phrase means, but why would she be saying that to him. She clearly knows him considering she practically outted how old he was when she first introduced us.

Now it seems like they’re related… how do those ages line-up? Claire has always looked really young, younger than she probably is, but she couldn’t possibly be old enough to his mom. Maybe an aunt? Long lost sister? Cousin?

Then the Hood seems to… glance over at me, and I don’t turn away. Then he warns her , “You’re not going to like what I do.”

Claire’s face breaks into a grin as she assures him, “You’re saying that to the wrong person, trust me when I say there’s nothing, you’ll do that I haven’t done myself.”

Well, I learned something new about the Director. Did they miss the memo that torture doesn’t yield results?

The Hood doesn’t say anything at that, but the scoff says enough. He walks past her, and as he walks towards the church door he tells her, “I’ll take my ride to the Needle.”

Tommy right next to me mutters, “Did the Director just psyche out the Hood?”

Tommy doesn’t have super-hearing, he’s just…

Crunch… Crunch…

I turn around and see him eating chips.

“When did you get those?” I ask him.

“I keep them in my jacket pocket,” he says as he pats it, “fire-proof pocket for fire-proof snacks.”

“The snacks aren’t…” I stop myself, there’s no point.

I purse my lips and nod my head. “Yeah, I think she psyched him out.”

“You know, she might scare me a little more than him now,” he admits, and I can’t help but smirk a little.

ESPADA

“I just don’t get what her problem is!” I tell him.

As we walk down the corridors of the Aegis Needle, I tell the Hood about Marie, and he responds, “Maybe it’s an attitude problem.”

I roll my eyes because, “I already know that, but only towards me, so why.

“Actually,” he looks to correct with a point of his finger, “I meant to point out your attitude.”

My head snaps back to say the least, and I cross my arms at him. I feel like I do that all the time now. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He wags his fingers towards my legs but I don’t look down. He points out, “How are you moving right now?”

I look down at my legs, floating off the ground as I fly alongside him, as I have throughout this whole conversation.

It doesn’t take a genius to that he’s talking about my floating! Floating is fun, if you could float you would.

Still, he must think it’s rude if he mentioned it so I land to the ground and walk beside him. What I do for other people. “I see your point, but I don’t think I’m flaunting my powers.”

“Sure,” he says, “and I don’t remember saying it was your powers you’re flaunting.

As we walk down the hallway together, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I’m doing.

I’m trying to be friends with him, which is like trying to be friends with a hungry predator, but I feel like I’m making progress. I tried to scheme my way into seeing his face, but when he took off the helmet for ice cream, he had a goddamn ski mask under it! But his voice did turn normal.

And I think he’s much younger than he wants us to think.

More to the point, I’m telling him my problems like he’s one of my friends. I may be annoying him or I might just seem weird… though he’s not exactly what one would call normal either, so who knows what he believes to be normal.

I decide just to ask him. “Are we friends, can I talk to you about this?”

“I don’t know about being friends, but you can talk to me, I don’t exactly have a booming social life you’re keeping me from,” he answers. The Hood leans in closer to me with a hand covering the side of his mouth, like he’s telling me a secret. “Believe it or not, I also have no one to tell your business to.”

“You think I’m being shallow,” I accuse him as I cross my arms and float in front of him, floating backwards as he doesn’t stop walking.

He shakes his head, “I said no such thing, I didn’t even imply it.”

I squint my eyes at him as I float back down to the ground beside him. I watch him with open suspicion, wondering if he’s chuckling at me inside that helmet.

With my hand bending towards me face, I rant that, “I just don’t get why she hates me, what reason could she possibly have for hating me?” When he has no response, I drop the act and admit, “Come on, that sounded shallow, call me shallow, it’s okay.”

Still, he says, “Nope.”

“No? You’re not going to hurt my feelings, I’ve been called shallow by people who don’t know me my whole life.”

“You’re going to have to make me,” he challenges me, he shouldn’t have done that. Now I have go total snob on him.

In the deadest serious voice possible, I tell him, “I bet I can solve this by paying her money, that’s how I get out of car accidents and stealing shoes at the mall.”

“Wow,” he groans as his hand moves to his helmet, and I can hear the pained gasp as he tries to hold in his urge to lie. “Okay, that’s probably one of the cringiest things I’ve ever heard, though I can’t say that I believed the delivery, but we’ll make an actress out of you yet.”

“It’s fine,” I tell him as I elbow his arm, gently of course, and tell him that, “friends gotta be honest with each other, how else will we know if we’re being a bitch? Somebody’s has to call us out on our shit.” He chuckles at that too, which pretty much means that he agrees that I’m right. “But seriously, help me figure out what’s up with Marie, you’re supposed to be smart, right?”

He looks as if he’s running down his schedule in his head, and with a shrug answers, “I have no plans tonight, I just got to do one thing first.”

I smile at him, and ask, “Thanks, maybe I can help so you can finish faster.”

Maybe that was a little too strong, because his head twists and stares at me with this silence. He doesn’t say anything for seconds that feel like minutes, and he tells me, “You can’t, you really don’t want to know what I’m going to do.”

What the hell does that mean? My lips twists as I shrug in confusion. “What the hell are you doing?” I ask him.

“Can you just trust me when I say I’m doing something that you don’t want to know about?”

“No,” I answer back, thinking that’ll it be funny but it’s not, his tone is deadpan serious, though that could be his helmet.

After silence he turns his head back down the hallway and I know it’s not his helmet.

“Remember I warned you.”

I would say I will, but who’s said that and not sounded like a child?

I’ve been following him around the needle for a while, and I never asked him where we were going, I wanted to talk to him. Now as I follow and I wonder where we’re going, I have another question, how does he even know his way around?

I don’t get my answer as we walk into the hallway block that’s for the military personnel, a section I’m not supposed to be in. It’s where the teams with guns and military training venture. It’s one of the more finished sections of the Aegis Needle. You can tell because they’re finally painting the walls something other than white.

If the Hood is coming down here, he’s here for something serious. He has guns, maybe ammo, no, if that were it why would he be so grave about it?

Maybe he thinks I would be bored, but that’s unlikely. There’s nothing here that could be more boring than an investor call from Burkestone’s board.

Wait, I remember him talking with Claire, where they had that argument over the prick calling himself Saint Lucifer. “You’re gonna interrogate the little shit we caught today, don’t you?”

He turns his head towards me, he’s looking at me but not answering. He speaks when he looks away. “Took you long enough to remember, you weren’t very conspicuous about eavesdropping.”

“It’s not eavesdropping if it’s not supposed to be a secret,” I snap at him, but that makes him chuckle, and I float to lean in closer to his face. He doesn’t react but no one should like another person this close. “Why are you so keen to interrogate him? We have ex-Seals here who interrogated terrorists.”

“Actually, we have ex-C.I.A. but I trust myself over just about everyone else,” he corrects, and goes on to further elaborate that, “especially with so many of their experts talking about how torture doesn’t produce useful information. We need someone who can actually tell if a person is lying. Who Claire has doesn’t cut it.”

“And how is it that you can tell?” I question him as I cross my arms only to uncross them. I really got to stop doing that.

He taps his helmet and it becomes pretty obvious. He’s got a lot of shit in that helmet.

“I’ll be able to tell factual information from what he’s just telling me to end the torture,” the Hood gloats, and that sends a shiver down my spine. The dude gloated about torturing someone, no way I’d be the only one who sees the psychological problem with this.

Then again, I am the only one talking to him to find out.

“I want to watch,” I tell him, and he stops and turns around to look at me. What I would give to see his expression under that helmet, or just the ski mask even so I can see his eyes. I want him to be surprised.

After his dramatic pause, something he’s pretty great at. He assures me as I’m sure he thinks he knows better, “No, you don’t.”

I’ll admit that I honestly don’t, but I can’t regret decisions people don’t let me make. The idea that I don’t know what I want to do, that I can’t decide which is better for me, is absurd.

I’ve been told what I want enough times to know that it’s pointless to tell them otherwise, so I stay quiet with an annoyed look on my face as he knocks on the door. By door, I mean a metal sliding wall that looks like it’s meant to hold a monster. It makes sense for an interrogation room, I bet no one outside of me can hear what’s going on inside.

I move behind him as it opens, to the spectator room that we’ve all seen on TV. The room where the cops and government agents watch from the one-way glass.

In it, Claire sits in a comfy recliner chair, her assistant not with her. I guess I can understand why.

Claire doesn’t even look away from the glass as we walk in, and I see that she’s staring at Saint Lucifer, still in his get-up, bored as all hell. I wonder what she knows by only looking at him, but if I had to guess, everything.

Claire doesn’t even look away from the criminal, she just plumps her chocolate wafers into her mouth and asks the Hood, “Need anything?” I bet she means tools. He shakes his head and she finally tears her eyes away to tell him, “Well get going, I’m itching to see what you do.”

She smiles at him until she sees me behind him.

“I want to see what you’re doing,” I tell her.

She shakes her head at me, trying to make me feel like some bratty child in over her head. I probably am, but like any such kid we hate when someone points it out. It’s really everyone else’s fault that they can’t get rid of us.

Claire tells me, “Get out, this room has no use for the self-righteous.”

“Excuse me?”

Claire turns her head and looks me dead in the eye. “Did I stutter?

I look to the Hood, but he shakes his head, assuring me, “I’ll come to you when I’m done.”

I try to argue, “But-”

“Director’s orders,” he tells me, like that should make me want to listen.

“Am I not supposed to know what my sometimes-teammate is capable of?” I question them both.

Claire makes it clear, “You know what I tell you, don’t make me repeat myself.”

I open my mouth to argue, but a hand falls on my shoulder and the Hood is shaking his head at me. He steps back and gestures outside into the hallway. “Come on, there’s use talking to her.”

It’s strange, it’s like there’s a tinge of regret in his voice, and it makes me wonder exactly why it is he cares what I see. Maybe that’s a sign that he’s warming up to me, but I don’t want to be a blind bystander to the bad things he does.

I want to know why. He’s far from the first vigilante in this country, not even in the first of his name. What makes people pickup guns and execute people? How do they just wake up one morning and go torture someone for information on the next mob boss up?

If you understand one, you understand them all, and the Hood is the best one to start with for one good reason.

He’s not gonna shoot me on sight.

But that doesn’t mean I can go against Claire. She’s probably the only thing between superhumans and a White House decision to dissect me and the others. I’m not ready to push her.

Yet.

I follow the Hood out, and when he walks towards the door to the interrogation room, he turns back and assures me, “I’ll make it quick, I promised I’d help you out, didn’t I?”

I don’t answer, take a play from his book, and then I leave him in silence.

THE DIRECTOR

I look ahead and wait for the Hood to enter, god it’s strange to call someone else that. When he does, Saint Lucifer couldn’t care less. This criminal lays his chin in his hand as he watches the Hood circle around him to the corner of the room.

The Hood leans against the corner and stares at him without saying anything. Maybe that lie detector of his needs to measure his heartbeat.

Saint Lucifer’s eyebrow arches as he watches the Hood do nothing. After waiting longer than he ever thought, the criminal shrugs his shoulders, and asks the Hood, “Well, what? You’re here to play bad cop, beat me up and tell me how you’re going to feed me to your dog?”

I watch the back of the Hood’s helmet, watching him tilt his head as if this Saint confused him.

He asks back, “Feed you to my dog… why would I want to do that? My dog didn’t do anything wrong.”

Saint Lucifer finds it insulting, like he deserves more from his interrogation. “So, you got jokes, and here I thought you were all just pew pew and grrr.”

He moves his hands behind his head, and leans back in his chair. “Let’s just cut the bullshit so I can start my round the clock tax-paid two meals a day.” I laugh out loud at this guy thinking he’s going to prison with the rest of his buddies.

I laugh until he has the gall to say, “I’m not sorry, I don’t know who it was who gave me and my guys our weapons, and I’d do it all again.”

He killed someone even though the man wasn’t the one he was looking for… He killed someone to be spiteful, that’s how little life meant to him.

Kind of reminds me of someone.

The Hood doesn’t seem to care about human life either, or else how does he stand mere feet from this guy without snapping. For god’s sake, what is he doing still standing there?

“You’re an insufferable little stain… aren’t you?” the Hood asks him. Saint Lucifer doesn’t move in his chair. He just leans back with this proud smirk on his face.

The only response the blonde-haired devil has is, “Yup.”

He walks up to the criminal, standing to his right as Saint Lucifer sits with his hands behind his head, looking up with a shit-eating grin, like he can take whatever the other can dish.

The Hood grabs the dirtbag’s hand and slams it on the table, and brings a knife through it.

“Nice,” I mutter as I enjoy the sight, having flashbacks of my own.

Saint Lucifer grinds his teeth together as he lets out a low wheeze. He pulls slightly on his hand, but realizes that his wound only grows worse from doing so.

Before he can stand, the Hood kicks out his chair from under him, causing him to fall and make an even bigger rip in his hand.

I like this trick, I might have to find an excuse to use it myself.

The Saint moans like a wounded animal, wheezing like he’s about to pass out.

To stop that from happening, the Hood plants his hand on the man’s head, and shocks him right to his brain.

I think I’ve done that before, have I done that before?

The vigilante walks away as the criminal shoots to his feet, clutching his arm as its stuck to the table. He holds it flat and still, trying not to move and rip his hand even more. God, it must feel on fire. This guy has to be pretty damn stupid if he doesn’t think to pull the knife out with his other hand.

I watch the Hood plant the chair to his victim’s right. The Hood asks him, “Now, tell me what’s your name.”

We already know his name, so he must be looking to establish the truth for whatever kind of lie detector he has in his helmet.

Saint Lucifer doesn’t answer, he stares at the Hood, his eyes unblinking as sweat already culminates in a drop down his face. He understands his mistake as I do mine.

The Hood flicks his right wrist and out pops another knife. He flashes it at the criminal, turning it all around to tease him. The psycho leans over to the hand stuck to the table, and Saint Lucifer reaches out to stop him. The Hood grabs the criminal’s free wrist and twists so he stands still. The Hood brings his knife to the hand stuck to the table, to the nail on the pointer finger…

Slick.

Aaaahhhhhh!

I listen to Saint Lucifer scream as the finger nail comes right off. That’s when he’s asked again, “What’s your name?”

Samuel Kendrick, Sam, Sam, it’s Sam Kendrick!” the man screams in response as his skin pulls back on his face, baring his teeth alongside his outbursts. Based on the redness and the sweat he looks like he’s about to fall unconscious, but the Hood zaps him again through his touch.

Now, he should ask a question and then go silent, let Kendrick here fill in the blanks.

“Sam,” the Hood repeats, pausing to let it sink in how he knows something. From this point outwards, he has to know that Kendrick is going to answer whatever he asks, there isn’t any way he tries to hold out, yet the Hood moves to the middle finger and tears that nail out too with his knife.

I look away for a moment to see if there’s a volume setting for the speakers. There’s not.

The Hood asks him, “Did you meet whoever gave you the weapons?”

Yes, yes, it was this black-haired woman, with glasses, red lips, dressed straight out of an office, I swear!” Kendrick tells him, every word a grit through his teeth.

The Hood actually jokes that, “So what, you met the Baroness?”

Kendrick yells at him, “I don’t know her name!” with his fingers bleeding and his hand stuck to the table.

“But you did know that she wanted the weapons used at a specific time,” the Hood reminds him, informing him of what we heard him say earlier. As if it were some kind of sick punishment, he removes another fingernail before letting Kendrick’s hand go.

He wanted to torture him more than he wanted information.

“You had information to give and you didn’t tell me. You didn’t have to kill an innocent man, a man innocent even in your mind, but you did anyway,” the Hood goes on as he wrenches his knife from the table, letting Kendrick stand up against the wall, “so now, you’re going to be punished for it.”

The Hood never wanted answers at all, he wanted to let off some steam on someone who deserved it. Bullets don’t satisfy his urges.

The Hood twirls his knives in upward grips and inches towards Kendrick.

Kendrick slides down the wall as the Hood stands over him. As he towers over the scumbag, he questions him, “Tell me about this woman.”

I don’t know anything else!” Kendrick pleads.

When he doesn’t give him what he wants, the Hood stabs upward into Saint Lucifer’s armpits, and takes them out to throw him to the floor.

“Tell me about this woman, I want to know everything. I want to know how she carries herself, I want to know if she answers to anyone, did she reference anyone above her, did she say she was with the Savaage, did she wear a symbol, hell, I want to know if she even seems human.”

He needs to make up his mind on what he wants, to inflict pain or gain information, he’s confusing me.

Kendrick looks up at the Hood with sheer horror. At this point his brain power is so feeble he may not be able to answer these questions. He can only answer one thing about the woman who gave him his murder weapons.

“Her eyes were black, not like they were empty, but like they weren’t real, it was unreal, like talking to you,” Kendrick answers, trying hard not to moan while he speaks so he doesn’t have to repeat himself or suffer greater injury.

But more on the woman, she seemed unreal. What does that mean? His description matches Hundress Dawn, the only known associate of the Savaage, but what does that say about her?

As the Hood goes to town on him, let’s think about the information I have.

Sad thing is that it isn’t a lot. The Savaage is a criminal organization or corporation, and they go after the element cantorium, but we don’t know why. We only know that they’re based in Aegis City from kidnapping and interrogating the offshore bankers, in international waters of course.

What we know of Hundress Dawn is that she’s the only known individual in the operation and she leaves no trace, which is pretty unreal. Experts want to label her as the head of the organization, but for someone never described as anything but a synonym for cold before today, what motivation could she have? I don’t mean cold like me, but emotionless. The organization’s banks, or the ones that we caught, described her to be apathetic.

Apathy is not a trait of leaders; I’ve known enough of those to say that factually. Is Hundress Dawn the head of the Savaage? Maybe, but I doubt it. Based on everything, I don’t think she’s even human, in the mental sense. Sounds more like an android.

The screaming stops and I realize that he’s done. I turn my eyes and-

Oh shit,” I curse as nearly have a heart attack.

“What?” he asks me.

I turned around and he’s leaning against the glass, bloody palms flat against the surface, looking straight at me from the blindside of a one-way mirror.

“You scared the fucking shit out of me.”

All monotone, he goes, “Well, I am naturally terrifying.” This time I did not laugh at his joke. He asks me, “Did you learn anything new?”

I think about his question as I look around my interrogation room. The place has been tossed around with the chair and table on the complete other side of the room.

Saint Lucifer, the loser, lies in the corner looking like he was savaged by a kangaroo with his cheekbone caved in and his top jaw lopsided. I guess I should give him healthcare for that.

I inform the Hood, “All I know now is that Hundress Dawn is handing out weapons to the same gangs that the Savaage left out to die. She wants the weapons tested but doesn’t care by who or if she gets them back. If she doesn’t care much for what happens to them, that means they’re not hard to make. And since she doesn’t want them back, they can’t be made out of cantorium, they wouldn’t go through the trouble of stealing the metal then letting people walk away with it.”

“So, we still have jack shit?”

“Yep,” I respond as I walk to the door.

He bangs on the window, prompting me to turn back to him. I see him clearly watching me. What’s the hell is in that helmet?

He demands more so he asks, “I want to know what you know about Hundress Dawn,” He asks more nicely, “I’d also like to have access to the team’s profiles.”

Oh, so he’s interested in the team now having worked with them, or maybe just Emily.

I walk up to the window and lean against it, letting him see me smile if he can see through the window. “Does the Hood want to know about his new friends?”

“Don’t patronize me, Claire, Emily wanted help figuring out the stick up Marie’s ass,” he snaps, “Emily’s words not mine.”

“Why do you want Tommy’s?”

“Entertainment value.”

I chuckle.

I turn away and decide to grant him his access, “I’ll give it to, but only because you asked so nicely.”

I hear his hands move off the wall as he thanks me, “Appreciate it.”

But,” I say to make one rule as I hold up my finger, “you have to be polite to James, I like him, and he’s the only tech support who can dumb down the mumbo jumbo for me.”

“I have no reason to be rude to him.”

I chuckle as the door opens for me, and patronize him because he hates it, “Of course you don’t.”

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