Tuesday, 14 February 2023 01:00

Crystal Sights Files: The Catspaw (Part 1)

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A Whateley Tale

Crystal Sights Files:
The Catspaw




Part 1


“Remember the reinforcing braces you gave me for that ‘Freddie Kruger’ job we did, Gus?” One man asked another within the confines of a rather sizable office for a crew of four.

“I remember, Oscar, ”Gus answered cracking a slight smile as the silence in the space had been broken, although that still didn’t get him to lift his gaze from his work. His gaze was still focused on the magnifying lenses as his hands deftly worked on the tiny head of a wire. Closer inspection would reveal the hard pyramidal heads on the tips along with the circuitry that nestled beneath it and down the length of its body. As per usual, this would be the prototype work before he would move into mass production. “The reinforcing variant with steel layer. They spared you from having your arm lopped off. Was there something wrong with them?”

“Not wrong, per se. Though I did find myself in trouble whenever I suddenly reeled back my arm after stretching it and vice-versa, the things just pinched my skin. Think some of the tiny cuts I received that day came from them rather than from ‘Freddie’s’ over-sized claws.”

“It’s a slight design error. Noted, I’ll use a more frictionless coating.” Gus said as he carried on with his work, watching slight sparks fly off from the tips of his tools. Fortunately, the material of the desk could take that sort of punishment without being charred. “I’ll keep that in mind. I’m just a couple more iterations before perfecting the flexible fiber. I can just feel it.”

“I’m sure the little miss will be more than happy.”

“I hope so as well,” Gus said with a slight smile, his gaze lingering over to a picture frame, albeit briefly before he reached to the pin point hacking tool that rested before it. Touching the end of the string with it would immediately light up the nearby screens and a torrent of green text would fill in the black background, things that were far too complex and out of Oscar’s understanding… but nonetheless mesmerizing.

The wriggling of keys and the rattling of the lock was hard to miss in the quiet, letting them know that the other half of the crew of Crystal Sights had just arrived.

The door opened and a woman stepped in. A lady that was quite appealing to the eye, even if today she tried to go for a more conspicuous look. She dressed in street clothes in the form of a set of jeans with a black and brown jacket covering a simple blouse. Her hair hung down a side of her head, pooling over her shoulder whilst her face, despite showing some signs of maturity was, for the most part, still quite alluring.

And behind her was a young man who appeared to have just entered college. With brown curly hair that framed his glasses, there was a bit of a nerdy, or innocent appeal about his presence. Of average to slim body frame, he dressed up in a simple letterman jacket and under his arm, he held a tablet with stickers and add-ons that appeared to be custom-made. Things like a better camera attachment and an improved power cell by the looks of it. Things he liked flaunting so as to show off his intellect and uniqueness.

“We’re back,” the woman greeted with the same relief as someone calling it a day, even if it was barely four in the afternoon.

“I assume the customer was satisfied with the result?” Gus asked as he ended his work for the day, sliding the magnifying lenses away before raising his arms in a stretch.

“As satisfied as someone dealing with an infidelity request confirmed true can be. I think he’ll bounce off well enough… though he did ask for us to send him the files so he can file for a restraining order,” The woman said as she sat at the corner of her desk, picking up the correspondence that had stacked up, though judging by the fluency she slipped through and tossed them into the trash, most of it could only be junk mail. “Tim, that was a nice modification you made to the video to enhance the audio, but don’t forget to send both modified and unmodified versions to client for his filing.”

“At once. I just have to find the original file,” Timothy noted.

“I have it here.” Gus answered. Already working on that detail, he pulled a thumb drive off his computer and wheeled himself over to his student.

“Remember that the law system relies on generating doubt. If the defense can make the jury believe that we somehow tampered with the evidence, it can backfire in more ways than one.”

“It’s never happened to us, though,” Oscar said as he reached over to his desk and picked up a set of darts, setting his sights towards a scoreboard at the end of the room, about ten meters away. “We’ve never missed in that way, Esme. So don’t worry about it.” And with an underhanded swing, threw one of them, landing hard against the bullseye with a ‘twack’.

“Well, it happened to me. Everyone has a hard time distrusting you when you’re a psychic,” Esme sighed as Oscar threw in another dart, one that landed on the narrow triple twenty mark. “Oh, how was the client meeting?”

“A man of nineteen, Randolph Saummers,” Oscar reported as he lined up his aim before another successful throw that came for another sixty points. “Supposedly fled their home downtown after having an argument with his mother while she was in a drunken episode. The woman waited three nights before reaching out to the police, and an extra two days gathering the courage before reaching out to us.”

“Think it’s feasible that we might find him?” Esmeralda asked as she paused, hearing a vibration coming from her coat’s pocket.

“The mother does regret that argument… so we’ll give it our best shot. Though we’d basically be running behind the police’s investigation. They probably already interrogated many of the friends and potential households the son would’ve dropped by and, as concerned as they are for Randolf’s whereabouts, I don’t think they’d be keen on repeating their answers. Even if odds are against us discovered anything. Best bet would be to contact DC’s police department and exchange notes.”

“Huh… speaking of which,” Esme noted as she raised up her phone so the others could see the contact’s ID: ‘Det. Rishen’.

“I have a good feeling about this,” Oscar said sarcastically.

“I know,” Esme nodded. They weren’t expecting a call from the Maryland police department anytime soon, so either this was a purely social call, or he had a job for them, which would beg the question as to why. Either way, there was only one way to figure out. Answering the call, Esme placed the phone on the table. “You’re on speaker, David.”

“Detective, to what do we have the honor?” Oscar chimed in. “Given that it’s quitting time, could it be to invite us for beers?” That little comment got him a slight jab from Esme.

Fortunately, the detective was familiar enough with the crew in Crystal Sights to know when they were joking. “Wish that were the case, Oscar. But the thing is, we have a case only Crystal Sights can handle as it pushes details slightly out of our regular scope.” He took a little pause, one could guess that he was taking a moment to look at something before continuing. “A missing person turned up and… well, she has a story to tell.”

“Tell us.” Esme noted.

“Well, it’s a bit of a strange one. It involves a kidnapping ring, seemingly led by a devisor that…” he took breath in a thin hiss.

“A devisor? A kidnapping ring?” Oscar said a bit thrilled, turning to Gus. “Think it might have to do with our missing person?”

“Perhaps,” Gus answered as the detective carried on.

“As to the details… it’s a complicated tale that I can’t get into over the phone line. I think it would be better if you could drop by the station to ask the questions yourself, if you’re open to the case.”

“We’ll be on our way, David. Give us twenty minutes.”

“I’ll let reception know you’re coming.” Which was followed by the bleep of the phone being hung up.

“Seems like we’re taking another case. Gus, you want to come with me?” Esme noted.

“I’ll be going,” Gus noted as he began to quickly pack up the pieces he was working on and pushed himself up from his seat. His hand reflexively reached up for a metallic implant that rested behind his left ear. Nothing conspicuous, but hardly invisible once you were aware it was there. “All ready.”

“Have fun,” Oscar noted, meekly echoed by Timothy as he slipped on his earmuffs to work.

“We’ll take my car,” Esmeralda noted as they stepped into the elevator and the doors closed behind them. With the soft rumbling and the confined space, there was a silence that needed to be filled and she was the first to break of the two. “So much for our luck, huh? To get called for a last minute gig just before we close office for the day. Better get this part done before Oscar throws us out of his crib.”

“I doubt Oscar finds much of a problem with us staying in the office for longer,” Gus noted as the doors to the garage opened and the two went into the garage. “But Esme, shouldn’t you at least try to take the day off? It’s not good to leave your son waiting.”

“Can I ask Clara to take care of Vic, just for a couple more hours?”

“I’ll send a message to her,” Gus conceded as he briefly tapped into his phone as they paused at the car’s doors. “He does enjoy hanging out with Danny.”

“Besides, this is an interrogation, Gus… You know I excel on these parts,” Esme said with bragging airs. “I don’t plan to pull an all-nighter. We’ll probably be just an hour or two late… is that alright?”

“I guess so…” Gus conceded, holding his tongue to not mention that these last minute jobs with the police usually took about three hours, but it was early, so they might still get through this on time. They were getting into the car when the loud buzzing of a received message pulled their attention towards Esme’s phone.

When the woman checked, her eyes widened but she didn’t linger nor pause on the matter, instead she slipped into the driver’s seat and handed her phone over to Gus whose brow furrowed. “I’m starting to see why David called for us…”

“Better hurry if I want to make it back early.” Esmeralda nodded and, with the turn of the ignition keys, they drove off.

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The police station in Maryland’s district had grown used to the antics of the members of Crystal Sights, with mixed feelings. Some, if not the slight majority, harbored some distrust towards them, even going as high as contempt. Despite being certified and vouched for by the local MCO offices as well as falling under the protection branches of Columbia Heroics, it was easy to chalk them down as “legal” vigilantes.

Plus, their status as investigators placed them at odds with them. Some of the detectives easily regarding it as a sign of weakness to ask for their services, and as a sort of professional frustration whenever they came across the answer before the detective working a case.

Still, that didn’t mean there weren’t those that appreciated the job or the services they provided. More than once, they were hired and requested as extra freelance support for some of the operations, and, more prominently, as an intel gathering service. Detective David Rishebach was one such individual that used them and the one who’d vouched and granted them his permit into the interrogation rooms this afternoon.

These rooms were the standard setup. A small rectangular space that was meant to occupy between six to eight tightly packed people whilst they spied upon the other side of the polarized window. A simple box that contained a pair of chairs and a lone table with an iron bar that curved itself around the edge, so as to keep the suspect bound to the side furthest from the door. The walls were grimy, seemingly having been scratched from a previous scuffle, even cracked, whilst the light above occasionally flickered.

It was hardly the comfiest places to be questioned in and that was, unsurprisingly, by design. Still, there was something off between the seeing the environment and the seemingly neutral expressions of both people in the room. Esmeralda had her back towards the glass but was with her back straight and, even if just seeing her from behind, appeared completely serene.

An aura that was mirrored by the victim. A woman who could be confused with someone wearing a set of expensive prosthetics, or just outright be called non-human. Her ears were large and differently structured, with cartilage stretching out to create a frame and flicking every now and then, clearly belonging to an animal. The rest of her wasn’t that different. Her face and nose were projected ever so slightly, just enough to break the human profile and give her a short muzzle, with whiskers visible under the light. Her fingers, while at the moment clasped between Esmeralda’s, Gus got a good enough view to notice that they were devoid of nails, presumably replaced by sheathed claws. Behind her was a long tail behind reflexively curled itself around the chair’s leg. All of her was furless, with the exception of her human hair which she’d somehow retained, revealing a skin that was a couple of shades darker than that of a normal human’s whilst still pink.

It didn’t take Gus too long to equate the woman, Lily McLaren, to a sphynx cat, finding how she fitted all of the characteristics.

“What happened to her?” Gus found himself wondering as he held up the phone to record the scene.

“We wonder the same.” David, the detective that greeted and let them in, noted as he moved around the space of the room. “The patrol brought her in at about three hours past noon. They were answering the report of a monster having been seen lurking around the small homeless camp in the southwestern side of town. The officers thought it was a joke, but the place was on their path, so they humored the investigation.”

Figures, Gus thought as he glanced back at Lily. The clothes she was wearing were obviously stolen. A muck green coat that was evidently meant for a man of a more corpulent build. Judging by the way she bundled herself against it when they came by it wasn’t difficult to tell she wanted to disappear in it… while at the same time unsure if she would be able to put up with its smell for longer.

David took a pause before continuing. Before that, the accounts become a tad complicated, but for the sake of fairness, I’ll take up the word of the two witnesses, that showed up, as fact. Apparently, after stealing the garment and hiding her… features, she was trying to head home. Just ahead of her, it happened that a mugger targeted a young couple that had recently left the bank after cashing in a check. Because of her proximity to the deed, the criminal decided to do her too. He pointed the gun her way and, in her surprise, her hood dropped. The mugger was startled and, by the time he regained his senses and was taking aim again, Lily had thrown herself up against the criminal.”

“A desperate attack?”

“Desperate, she didn’t stop herself and instead kept on pounding at the man thinking he would get up soon. Before she realized it, she was opening her fingers and outstretching her claws,” To that David gestured at a cheek, crisscrossing imaginary lines. All Gus could do was wince. “The officers arrived and were quick to draw the wrong conclusion. Would’ve probably filled her with lead hadn’t the young couple jumped in the way to intercede on her behalf… Still, she didn’t make herself any favors in her apparent state of panic.”

“She identified herself as ‘Lily McLaren’ Twenty-six-year-old. She lives on Europa Street and is an office worker at a clinic and before that graduated from college with a degree in accounting. All the information has been validated.” To that, David reached into the file folder to produce a printed photo. One that depicted a young lady with a vibrant smile. Of a round face and a perky nose, it was hard to make the connection between her and the victim that sat in the middle of the examination room.

And yet, the more he compared, the more he began to notice similarities. The biggest one being the hair that decorated the top of her head. Despite mangy and unkept, it was the same texture and color as the picture.

“What could cause this?” Gus muttered. “She’s evidently not a mutant if this was her months ago. The other option would be…”

“Something akin to the Catamounts?”

“Human experimentation, most likely,” Gus conceded. “She claims she was kidnapped, right?”

“The night of the seventeenth, she was staying late for work.” Officer Urich noted, having remained quiet for the most part of the conversation. He reached into his file and produced the transcript. “Supposedly, she was about to leave when another figure broke into the offices. After that, everything went black and… well… that’s where they did that to her. Supposedly, they brought her in and out of consciousness. She was in such a daze her sense of orientation was basically shot.”

“So, she couldn’t direct you to who did this to her or where she came from?”

Officer Urich shook his head. “No…”

To which Detective Rishenbach completed. “We traced her origin back to the homeless camp but from there the trace went cold. And since we’re dealing with devisors and potentially more mutants, we needed experts.”

“Oh, I’m flattered,” Gus said sincerely.

“If we were to contact the MCO, we’re unsure what they would do with Miss McLaren. Columbia Heroics are other option, but they’re the ones we call once we have all the information we’re missing.”

“We’ll do our best,” Gus reassured as he stared back into the room. Esmeralda sat still at the table, with her focus being inward as the connection was established between the two ladies. An expert psychologist, even without her powers of telepathy and mental projection, she would root out those memories as best as possible.

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Diving into the minds of others was a bit of a sensitive topic for Esmeralda. Ever since she developed the powers in the apex of her teenage years, earning other people’s trust wasn’t as easy as it could be. The moment when they would get a whiff of her nature as a telepath, and according to the official rating she was given, a strong one at that, it would be all that was needed for doubt to settle in.

 There was always the question that she was being truthful or deceiving. Ironically, as much as she tried to be honest and forefront on these matters, that just made her appear all the more deceiving. Accused of things way outside of the scope of her abilities. Things like erasing memories and even going as far as mind programming or even controlling were impossible to her, and it could be for the lack of trying, but she wasn’t even interested in getting close to that topic.

Nowadays, it usually manifested on either suspicion on her hiding illegal action or cops assuming she tampered with witnesses or victims. And it can become quite a nightmare. Once one of the criminals caught whiff of her abilities during arrest and, as a result, the lawyer claimed that, suddenly, her client had lost his mental faculties and couldn’t remember the crime in question. It was a terrible month long ordeal, probably the worst she’d experienced since she founded Crystal Sights, going from MCO test to MCO test to certify there wasn’t foul play.

And before that, back in Latin America, she had it worse while learning to use her powers. People down there were so distrusting, and many rural communities were quick to throw vegetables her way thinking she was some sort of witch.

Her specialties were twofold. One to create mental illusions which she often times used to visualize witness accounts or confuse opponents. If she wanted, the effect could linger for an hour or so at max. The second was her ability to link minds, to establish and manage communication channels, things that lasted far longer than the visual illusions, thus her appointed codename as ‘Comsat’. She could also pry into minds using that function of her powers, reading details at the surface level. If the target was unwilling, it required a little more finesse as its owner was king and if she wasn’t careful she could suffer a backlash, which is why she often needed to force them into an unbalanced state… and she disliked it for what it was: a validation of all the negative views people tended to have towards her.

Physical contact was also a necessity to exponentially increase her own strength.

So, needless to say, she preferred to do this sort of dive on willing subjects where in it could take many forms. From bringing up fond memories as a form of treatment, mental exercises, confronting some sort of trauma and helping on a case.

Their bodies might still be physically still within the cramped interrogation room, but their minds had drifted off to a seemingly different location. Their eyes deluded, they could ‘see’ themselves standing in the middle of a large concrete space. And it was all marred by the presence of shadows and blurs of black that seemed to pulsate with a life of their own, rising themselves to try to creep into the small bit of space they walked around.

Bits of trauma, Esmeralda thought inwardly which, considering her current status, was like a second level deeper within the chain of consciousness. Pieces of her mind that made it easier to blur the less impacting sights she experienced during her captivity, but they couldn’t disappear or conceal the rest. The more impacting, or traumatic moments the woman, Lily, experienced were etched and so clear that they almost appeared to glow over the dour surroundings.

Within the mental space, Esmeralda took a couple of steps towards the perimeter where the memory’s host lingered. There stood, Lily, a representation of herself, standing pretty much like she did in the photo David had shared with them. She was a healthy young woman, dressed in what appeared to be the outfit she used to wear for office a white shirt and a dark jacket. It was the form that made her feel the most comfortable. She stood by the side of the wall, where tanks filled with fluid were lined up. About three stuck together with her focus being on the leftmost one that contained her naked self, or at least a projection compiled of what she saw and imagined she must’ve looked while there. Her nude body blurred as the self-awareness began to kick in.

Lily stood still, terrified and at the same time mesmerized by her own appearance trapped within the chemical vat, her hand reaching up for the tube that fed her air and then brushing her arm where needles were attached, injecting her with whatever devised mutagens caused her transformation. Her avatar seemed to feel them, even if she wasn’t the projection that was trapped, and almost jumped scared, going back only to be caught by Esmeralda. “Lily.”

“I… I thought I felt something.”

“You imagined it, just like everything else here… but that one is more dangerous because you felt it first hand,” Esmeralda said pulling Lily back and away from the chemical vat. “If you empathize and connect yourself to the you in the memory, you might find yourself reliving the experience.”

“No… No, please,” she plead. “Can we leave this? All this?”

“I’m sorry, but I need you here to help me pinpoint anything else you can about this place.” Esmeralda said as she gestured at the rest of the space. The pulsing shadows reacted to Lily’s emotion and as she was moved away from the stressor that was her own circumstances at the time, the more they diminished. The outline of the ‘lab’ became all the clearer.

A set of expensive computers were laid down before the vats, the screens were glowing of a white color as Lily had no idea what was being displayed but there was little doubt they were connected to the entirety of the operation, and especially the vats that contained her and other kidnapped victims. Behind the table stood a man, looking almost as young, if not younger than her co-worker Timothy, he was commanding and intimidating, with his face seemingly deformed in the form of a grin and eyes that exuded malice. Of course, this might be Lily’s bias on the matter, so she couldn’t take these aspects on face value when profiling.

There was another man that stood by the main suspects side. This one appeared relevant enough and seemingly moving in such ways that suggested a sort of conflict of opinion. A verbal argument, perhaps. The outstanding feature, and the one that was the clearest on this man’s projection was the armor that he had wrapped around his legs and arms, along with the plated belt.

If the man behind the computers is the devisor, then this has to be the one that hired him, or his partner, Esmeralda reasoned as she used her influence to stabilize more of the blurs that were beyond their area of influence.

At the back was the worktable, a long table filled with vials of chemicals and the same machines one would expect to see in a lab. From what she guessed they were for flashfreezing, superheating, hypermixing and activating compounds. And it was with its own projection of the devisor standing by the side, no doubt another compile from Lily’s time in the tank

The room, whilst some of the corners of the room were obscured, Esmeralda could hazard a guess that this place was an industrial building. The space was ample and still had the standard factory infrastructure that made as much use of the space as possible. Barrels of materials were stacked in the corner and the shadows and outlines of catwalks could be spotted above.

There were figures that moved back and forth, blurred in their movements but with clear human outlines. They could only be the presence of henchmen that were dealing with the kidnappings and the maintenance of the lair. Since they weren’t prominent it was hard to hazard a guess of the number, but Esmeralda would infer this was between one and two dozen men.

All in all, considering the uncleanness of the setup and the mess of cables that were strewn scattered about, it worried Esmeralda that this was a temporary arrangement and that, if they weren’t fast enough, they would miss them and the other victims.

That being thought, there was also the chance that they hadn’t made the move yet, especially if the other kidnapping victims weren’t in movable conditions. Oscar consulting his ‘informant’ network should point them in some direction and checking the power grid should help them pinpoint the hideout.

“I came in and out of consciousness and, without my glasses, I could hardly tell what is what.” Lily excused upon noticing Esmeralda’s deep thought.

“Don’t worry,” she reassured. “It’s more than enough. Though I have to ask… do you remember anything else? Could you have heard anything?”

“I… I don’t know.” Lily noted.

“I believe they were trying to do some experiments… something to do with Animen.”

“Animen,” Esmeralda repeated, that was the race of anthropomorphic humans created by Dr. DNA. They inhabited an island somewhere in the ocean and had made it to the mainstream knowledge by way of some reality TV. But, from Esmeralda’s understanding, these creatures were created. There had been attempt of people trying to genetically modify themselves to gain desired attributes, but most of them came at some sort of a cost or consequence, which brought up the concern of what side effects Lily might experience on the long run.

“Better not think about that now,” Esmeralda told herself. “How did you make it out?”

“That…” Lily said as she moved around. After having recreated the circumstances of her kidnapping and gone through the pain of replicating the scene they were in she was now getting better and she was far defter in manipulating the scene. With the spur of a memory that was the closest thing to a victory she might’ve experienced through the entirety of the ordeal.

The scene changed into what would be an eyesore for anyone trying to focus the minds-eye. The walls traveled themselves in a hallway of undefined edges and the occasional tremor based on Lily’s focus. This must’ve been a place she had only seen once, or she was either still feeling the effects of the drug at the time.

There was no after or forward, instead just a deep void that was outside of her awareness at the time, muttering gibberish. Judging by the wall color and the faint hints of the malfunctioning lighting, it was apparent this was still in the building, probably in that hallway gap she spotted in the room before.

Esmeralda followed Lily a couple of steps ahead wherein she stood gazing through a threshold. The room ahead had once been a sort of decontamination shower, with marble tiles lining the walls and floor and separations to give the men some privacy. Judging by the wet floors (an aspect that appeared quite clear in Lily’s mind) it had been used every so often. At the center, was a medical bed that rested in a scene that played itself without seeming concept of cause and effect in the form of a blur. But with a bit of focus, one could make up the sequence of events.

“I woke up. I just did,” Lily explained. “Think they took me out of the vat to extract some of my blood and other samples, judging by the tubes I had in me at the time. And I think they did that often, maybe did so to re-apply the anesthetic because the more I think about it, the more I remember being in that room before blacking out and appearing submerged again. Last night… strangely, I wasn’t entirely out by the time they scooped me from the tank.”

Her new form must’ve developed some resistance to the anesthetics, Comsat thought as she focused her gaze on the gurney at the center of the room and the two henchmen that accompanied her, spotting the moment Lily picked the chance to strike and how the encounter went. The moment one of the two caretakers had their back turned to search for some of the implements, she struck.

She was still partially under the effects of the sedative as she pretty much threw herself up against the man looking at her, sending the two against the ground with her fist raised to deliver a punch that had his head hit the marble tiles, leaving him stunned. The other henchman had noticed the attack and had seemingly saying something along the lines of “hey you!” but was stopped as Lily threw her body up against the gurney, sending it wheeling up against him.

In normal circumstances, while the gurney was heavy, it wouldn’t be enough to stop the man… but luck must’ve been on her side because when faced by the obstacle, the henchman tried to take a step back, onto the wet floor and he lost his balance, bringing the gurney down, leaving him pinned under it.

From there, Lily didn’t even want to risk the situation, her reflection of the events rose up, with unsteady feet at first, falling down more than once, but still determined to reach her goal, a narrow window that was way up above the ground. Her new body made a quick job of it. Her legs tightened and with a sprinting leap she gripped the edge, and her lithe thin body made it easy for her to pull herself up and slip through the narrow gap.

“I fell what must’ve been about four meters of height… It left me out of breath, and I think, almost a broken leg, but still alive and sort of free,” Lily recounted looking down at her mental reflection, the one that was still human and dressed in her office outfit, seemingly aware that it was all false. “I couldn’t make sense of what had happened to me, much less think reasonably. Whatever they gave me still addled my mind and my vision blurred ever so often before becoming hyper acute to the point it ached and then becoming but a smudge. My legs wanted to fall asleep, but I forced them to carry me as far as I could. I think I could hear the two men scream after my escape.”

“So, I ran. I ran as fast as I could in any direction that was quieter and darker. Every place that would get me further from my captors. I leapt, climbed and crawled under. I was naked and cold, but most of all afraid.” To that, the memory faded as Lily opted to try to forget of all that happened next, of everything for that matter.

The first thing Esmeralda had tried to test with Lily was to trace back the line of events to find the location of her kidnappers. There was no luck as every step was a haze and the distance traveled was as muddled as it could be. “And that’s when you made it to the small homeless camp.”

“I forced myself to hide there. Stole some food and the clothes that you saw me wearing… and as I regained more of my sense and gathered more of my courage, I looked at myself on a broken mirror.” Lily sniffled as she began to break into a sob and Esmeralda couldn’t do anything but hug her reflection as it seemed to twitch and shimmer as if trying to reconcile both sides.

And that’s where she set off to her old apartment… and when she spotted the mugging that got her to the station, Esmeralda thought to herself before speaking up. “It’ll be okay. We’ll do our best to help you.”

Lily just answered with a slight sniffle as she returned the embrace as the darkness spread around them and claimed them as connection was severed and the two were cast back into the real world.

Esmeralda opened her eyes and took a long breath. Her eyes opening and feeling the sting of the interrogation room’s light strike her. And before her, the silent presence of the room was broken with the rattling of Lily’s handcuffs.

The woman’s gaze went down to her hands before, reflexively reaching up to touch her muzzle and grab her ears, making her realize that she was as she was now, a different form than she’d just mentally visualized herself as. The emotions came in a flurry, from hope, to realization, to sadness, to anger and finally down to acceptance. A glimmer of a tear slipped in the corner of her eye and Esmeralda could only console her by reaching into her purse to produce a packet of tissues to offer her. The police headquarters wasn’t the place for lamenting and crying, especially someone looking like her, that could come later.

“If you excuse me, I’ll talk to my associates.” Esmeralda noted as she pushed herself off her seat.

“Could I… Can I return to my apartment, please?” Lily asked sorrowfully. The woman, by now, seemed to have realized there would be a lot needed to put her life together. Sadly, though, after been absent for over a month, odds would be that she’d been evicted from her place.

“I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t recommend it. If they have your wallet and ID, odds are they might already be looking for you there.”

“Then where can I go? Looking like this?” She said looking at the wrinkled tissue in hand, and then looking at her nailess fingers which, with a slight flex of the digit, pushed out curved hard claws. Thick white things that almost felt transparent under her eyes connected to her bones tand she dreaded using them to scratch someone again.

“We’ll take care of you until we can find the culprits…” Esmeralda said as she stepped back, politely excusing herself as she slipped back and walked out of the interrogation room where she was met by Gus, detective Rishenbach and the assisting officer, Benjamin Urich. All of whom were more than interested in what she uncovered during her telepathic reading.

“Well?” David ventured to speak. “Was she being honest?”

“She was,” Esmeralda muttered, nudging them to move into the adjacent room. While she had no idea how much Lily’s senses were altered by the transformation, she would hazard a guess that it was towards the heightened side.

Once within the room, she carried on with the explanation. “She worked at a medical facility as an administrative secretary. She just happened to be doing extra hours when she was taken. The likely explanation was that the perpetrators were on the lookout for ingredients for their mutagenic cocktail and she just happened to be in the way. The suspects we’re looking belong to a small group. Nothing too excessive but organized enough to follow the orders of a head man, or in this case two. One is the brains of the operation: a devisor who is the main author of Lily’s predicament. The other one is the more standard goon, he appeared to be dressed in some light combat armor. The reinforcement around the greaves leads me to believe that he’s either a devisor or a speedster.”

“Or both,” Gus ventured to guess, to which Esme nodded.

“Either way,” the detective asked. “The issue being that we have two potentially empowered individuals, one of them of the sci fi variant roaming the city, seemingly in the middle of the reenactment of a horror movie turning people into… anthropomorphic creatures? Animen? Is that their plan?”

“No idea,” Esme answered. “Judging by her memories, that seems to be the end result, of the formula. She’s seen plenty a subjects before and after her, but seemingly she’s the first one to escape, their first incident.”

“Some sort of super soldier initiative?”

“It’s an option, they appeared to be wanting to perfect the formula rather than weaponizing it. Maybe they wanted to perfect the formula before they tried it on themselves?”

“She could’ve been made into a sleeper agent,” Urich ventured, to which all other members in the room looked at him with a slight frown. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility, if the Russians did it during the cold war.”

Esmeralda had to concede. “It’s not impossible, but I’ve already dove into her mind, and there didn’t appear any signs of programming.”

Detective Rishenbach interjected. “If anything, lady is lucky that her process appeared to be a success. She appears to be in top form.”

“Don’t cross that out,” Gus interjected. “Unless we’re dealing with a prodigal devisor, if this isn’t a perfect change, degradation might set in faster than we expect. The best case scenario, as unlikely as it might be, her state is transitory and she’ll start to revert, the worst… it’s something that I don’t want to discuss.”

“And neither should we, not now that we’re starting off a hunt,” Esmeralda said with a small sigh. “Once this is over, it would be best to take her to the Columbia Heroics lab. There she can get tested by the resident doctor.”

“Back to the topic of this group,” David interjected. “Did you happen to find their hideout?”

Esmeralda shook her head. “Lily was still feeling the effects of the drug and completely disoriented on her way out. I can tell that this is in the southwestern side of the city. But you probably knew that much.”

“Considering where we found her, yeah.” David agreed. “So has the trail gone cold?”

“Not exactly. I saw just enough to make one or two inferences as to their location which we’ll have to confirm.” Esmeralda gave Gus a look that assured that they had a lead. “We’ll make our investigations and report our findings, as usual.”

“Very well,” David noted. “Keep in touch with both us and Columbia Heroics, understand? If you need backup, give us a call.”

“Got it,” Esmeralda said before turning towards the one-way window. “What will happen to her now?”

“We were about to ask if you could take her,” the detective noted. “Some of the men aren’t that keen on having her in here. It would probably do no good if we put her in a cell for protection.”

“Probably would be good enough to have her sent to the superhero headquarters,” the officer nodded.

“We’ll take her,” Esmeralda chimed in. “I’m not sure if being in a superhero headquarters might help her mood, our office might be slightly more on the normal side.”

“If she can ignore my tinkering,” Gus noted. “I’m sure Oscar won’t mind.”

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With the approval of the detective handling the case, Lily was surrendered to the members of Crystal Sights and transported back to their office with the expected discretion on the matter, only in case the perpetrators had their ears up against the walls of the police station.

Once there, she was introduced to all the members of the team. Timothy couldn’t help but keep on gawking at the woman’s animalistic features, even if by accident. It took a stern psychic reprimand by Esmeralda to get him to stop. Whereas Oscar was far friendlier and more casual on the matter, showing her around the place before inviting her to wait in a side room, one that was usually used to conduct interrogations or talks with visiting clients. Still, the comfort there was leagues away compared to the police precinct, with a soft cushioned chair she hadn’t felt in a while, even if her tail got in the way. Ahead of her was a clear window that allowed her to peer into the hallway next to the office and onto the group as they discussed the plan.

“So that’s what happened…” Timothy muttered. “That’s horrible, wouldn’t know what I would do if I were in her situation.”

“Harping on it at this time won’t help her.”

“I say it as a compliment.” Timothy defended, though it was clearly a reflex answer.

“Regardless,” Oscar muttered, occasionally stealing a glance or two to the cat girl that sat in an almost taciturn expression in the other room. “What will be the plan?”

“She’ll spend the night here. I hope it’s not a problem for you, Oscar…”

“Not at all. I always appreciate playing host,” he said before moving himself towards the backside of the office where the kitchen was. With it, he began to prepare some food, knowing that Lily had been practically starving and subsisting on crackers from the police department’s vending machine.

“In the meantime,” Esmeralda interjected. “I’m positive that she was kept within a factory, an abandoned one. But just to be sure she wasn’t misremembering any details or associating elements to those of analog appearance, think you can run a scan of the city’s power grid and cross reference it to the operation of each building, or lack there off?”

“I still have that algorithm I ran during the hunt for ‘Voltiman’. I can work on it and leave it running overnight,” Gus noted as he moved over to his computer and began to type away at a speed that it almost sounded like an overexciting rattling.

“Good…” Esmeralda muttered peeking down into her phone and sighing with dismay. “Eight thirty… I have to pick up my son.”

“Don’t worry, just a couple more lines and I’ll be running the program remotely,” Gus added.

“Alright. I’ll be excusing myself to the victim for the two of us,” she then addressed the others. “Be ready for tomorrow, we’ll be doing the legwork and getting into potential trouble.” And that comment was received by a mixture of affirmations, from Timothy’s dreaded one to Oscar’s overenthusiastic one. Esmeralda went towards the office, with Timothy in tow, planning to excuse himself as well, claiming that he needed to get back to his dorm.

It wasn’t long before the members of Crystal Sights left the office. Timothy leaving first, and after him, Esmeralda and Gus.

Lily could only answer with a subdued farewell as they promised that tomorrow they would make sure to put the criminals that did this to her behind bars. But a promise felt hollow to her as she tried to not let her envy turn into bitterness, but it was a hard matter, whenever her fingers flexed, she could feel her claws slip out by accident, and whenever she moved her spine, her tail brushed up against the floor reminding her it was there.

She wished to go home. To go back to being human. Not a monster that would be stared at. She could even remember how the telepath woman, a mutant, reacted to her at first sight with a subtle flinch. Even though at the time, she’d been the one who’d managed to downplay the shock the best, it was still noticeable for Lily, who was looking for that sort of gut reaction.

Consolations felt little and few, hardly able to make up for the absolute nightmare that had been the past weeks of her life, and more importantly what would lie ahead. What sort of things could she do? What could she aspire to but being a freak? Would she even be allowed to live?

She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop… but her ears could pick up far more than was to be expected and the tiniest of gaps in the station’s interrogation room’s window frame was all she needed to listen what was going on the other side. While a part of her feared that they would somehow turn on her and turn her over to the MCO for some sort of study or vivisection like the tabloid stories told, there was some solace in knowing that they were committed to helping her out with her problems.

And then, she heard Gus’ notes about the effects of this sort of gene therapy. The consequences in the long term that she’d been facing ever since she realized she had a functional tail: “The best case scenario, as unlikely as it might be, her state is transitory and she’ll start to revert, the worst… it’s something that I don’t want to discuss.” Of course, Gus was being optimistic when he said that she would revert, but that felt like a far off reality after all the things she had gone through. None of those injections or those burning feelings while stuck in the tank reassured her that this would wear off soon. And if so, what was the consequence?

Would her body start to degrade? Would she find herself invalid? Age faster? Even die in a matter of weeks? All that was ahead felt so grim and depressing, and unnerving. Much like dreading the end results of some serious test, she dreaded the wait but feared the answer would be the worst outcome.  And even the best wouldn’t feel like a complete victory considering all she’d been through. So, the questions kept on circling her head, making her wish her attention hadn’t been brought to that aspect. The fact that she felt fine meant nothing as she tried to compare herself to her condition from a couple of hours ago and all that did was start to spur a sense of paranoia.

What life can I have? Will I even have a life after this? What am I going to do? What can I do?

She could already feel the tears starting to slip out as she cursed herself for getting involved in this incident. Cursing herself for wanting to do extra hours or assuming that the sounds she heard on the other side of the door was one of her co-workers having forgotten something. She just had to call out to them and let them know of her presence. A harsh struggle later and she was in the vat watching her manicured nails fall off.

Her claws unsheathed she was idly running them across the table’s surface, though not strong enough to leave a mark in their wake. She wanted to go far stronger, imagine it was the face of that devisor or even one of his henchman. Maybe the burly man that held her down, or that rat faced one with the severe acne that pushed the rag with chloroform against her face.

“Am I interrupting?” A voice broke her out of the silence. She looked up to the entrance of the office to find Oscar, standing in place with a couple of mugs on one hand and a platter of sandwiches. Her whiskers could feel the heat radiating from them and the nose was making her mouth water.

It was when her fingers twitched that she looked down and spotted three lines where her fingers had pressed up against the plastic surface of the table. Shame invaded her as she realized that she must’ve gotten herself carried away by the memory of the events and that the office was, also, Oscar’s apartment.

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” Lily muttered as she pulled her hands and felt her claws sheath themselves back.

“Don’t be,” Oscar said with a cavalier attitude as he set down the plates of food and offered Lily a mug. “You just went through something terrible and you’re holding up much better than expected.”

“How are you so sure I’m keeping it together?” Lily asked as she looked at the drink and was immediately tempted to reach for it, before remembering a small incident that happened in the station when she was offered something to drink, the water spilled off the sides of her muzzle much to the amusement of one or two passing officers… Fortunately, Oscar seemed to have something for it as he placed a straw on the table.

“I don’t know it. That’s true. It’s more of a feeling I get. I can’t base it on anything concrete… but after having worked on this job for so long you get an idea of how a case will turn out.”

“You’ve worked as an investigator for a long time?” Lily muttered, right now what she needed was a distraction… a conversation that wasn’t about herself.

“Founding member of the group… Crystal Sights will be about three years in the next couple of months.”

“Sounds impressive. And do you deal with this sort of strange bizarre problems often?” Lily noted before adding. “I don’t follow the news often.”

“Nor would I expect you to hear about us. We’re just a step above the usual private investigator, because we’re three uber experts and an apprentice, instead of just one grizzled cop that got kicked off the force.” Oscar said, changing his tone just to sound like a grizzled narrator, which was strange comparison to his Nathan Fillion-like looks. There was something between his handsome features, from his defined chin with some stubble to the short hair that clashed with the humor attempt.

Lily found herself smiling at him.

“Though, needless to say, we don’t get much credit outside of ‘a certain intelligence agency’ or ‘some vigilantes’. Mostly because they don’t want to share credit.”

“Huh… I would’ve thought it was because it sort of defeats the purpose of an intelligence agency. You know, if they know the members, they can be on the lookout for them and make investigations harder.”

“Huh… I hadn’t seen it that way,” Oscar said leaning back. “In hindsight it makes some sense. I almost got shot once because I got recognized by someone I beat up.”

Lily, while concerned, if not thrilled by the story, couldn’t help but find herself drawn to the man’s narration. “So, this is a special occasion?”

“Every month or so we get a special case like this. Sometimes, it’s just intel work, such as shadowing a paroled mutant criminal suspected of recent crime. Other times we get hired by the police station, Columbia Heroics or other clients who we can’t disclose.” Naturally, the local superhero team and the officers had a particular need for transparency on this sort of details, especially when the members of the group were required to testify their findings in court. “But the bulk of our week is just filled with the standard cases. It’s usually infidelity, missing children or pet, misplaced important item, suspecting someone is casing a store for a future theft and so on. I usually deal with the more… ahem, physical oriented activities.”

“So, you’re, like, a super soldier or something?”

“No, just a good soldier of fortune.”

“I’d be interested in hearing more.”

“I’d be happy… but first, eat up… then you can have my shower. Esmeralda had the foresight of buying some spare clothes for, well, cases like this.”

Lily was somewhat taken aback. “Cases like this?”

“Cases where the client’s clothes were destroyed, stained or soaked.” Dart paused for a moment. “I don’t think they have tailholes, but… I can help you make them.”

“Right…” Lily said. Whilst the reminder of her inhumanity stung… when Oscar said it, it didn’t bother her as much. She picked up the sandwich and began to take a bite whilst he drank from his glass. “If you want something stronger or feel like you need a soother, I have some whiskey, wine or gin.”

“I’ll consider it…” Lily smile. Come to think of it, everyone she met flinched or did a double take to her presence, as subtle as it could be she felt that she always caught them on the act… Oscar never did.

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“How’s the operation going, drob?” Asked a man dressed like a higher level foot-soldier. He stood fit in an outfit of his own making though hardly looking as menacing as professionally made power armor made with the resources of, say, the Goodkinds and alike. But it served the purpose… and still put him in higher fighting capability over the rest, which is why D-Rob refused to lash out at him.

At least yet, between losing what appeared to be the most promising of his test subjects, the sudden movement out of fear of the cops to raid the place and the resulting lack of sleep, his patience would be wearing thin any time now.

“It’s D-Rob, Ticker,” the man behind the computer screens answered. “If you’re going to call me by my nickname, at least do it right. Or I’ll start addressing you as ‘Tickler’.”

D-Rob tried to remain calm and in control, but admittedly, the moment he sensed the metal on Ticker’s greaves rustle, he thought he would get struck. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, apparently, the man had the sense to not mess with the devisor that was creating his gene altering cocktail.”

“Fine… D-Rob,” he said, emphasizing the ‘D’ part. “How’s the operation going?”

“Your henchmen’s fuck-up will have set us back for a good couple of weeks.”

“Weeks? We just relocated ourselves… And the escaped subject was just here for a couple of weeks.” Ticker said raising up his gaze towards the chemical tanks that rested at the wall. All six that they had, all filled with men and women that exhibited similar stages of transformation: small tails, claws, in irregular stages, but none to the degree that could compare to the missing occupant.

“She was a four week subject, but we’ll have to leave the city. That implies making sure the subjects are stable, and if so, start considering putting them in cryo until we get set up. You can’t really expect us to continue under these conditions?” D-Rob answered dryly, already expecting the upcoming answer.

“What?” Ticker muttered. “I paid for one of the Syndicates hideouts. This place is even better, with all the amenities.”

It came as a bit of a surprise to D-Rob to know they had relocatied to that sort of safehouse. Afterall, syndicate services didn’t come cheap for non-members, and judging by the guy’s age and way of carrying himself, he could hardly be called a professional villain. He felt more akin to a college student dropping out of school because he believes he can make it as a musician, it was a hobbyist enterprise that felt doomed to fail. But he was paying him for the service, and this was the devisor’s way of developing his talent of co-opting experiments… all that mattered to him was to not get caught in his errors.

And that’s the part that was worrying him about the management of this endeavor.

“We’re not staying in this city. Your henchmen fucked up, and now there’s one of our experiments on the loose, there is no movie nor game where THAT is a good thing. We have to move. And the faster we do this, the better. Why don’t you hire the syndicate as well for that?”

“Oh, no. We’re already using one of their spare hideouts under ‘express notice’, do you have any idea of how much it’ll cost us to get another? Plus, their transportation service?”

“Do you know how much it’ll cost you if you get caught?” D-Rob snapped. “Even if we moved to the other side of the city, as opposed to being next door to our previous hideout. The police are on high alert. They’ll know we’re attempting to emulate Dr. DNA’s experiments outside of international waters, thus violating many laws. Suddenly, it’s not just a case of kidnapped people, but something that involves human transformation, biological weapons and inhuman acts. MCO and heroes will line themselves up to get a hold of the devisor.”

For a moment, D-Rob was concerned that his words might’ve given Ticker the idea of cutting him off the plan and leave him out as a scapegoat, after all, he was the one with the knowledge and in charge of the process. It’s what he would do, if the roles were inverted.

“We’re in a different part of the city,” was all Ticker said, mostly to defend his plan against the devisor’s complain.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m sure there’s a way they can find us if they put their ear to the ground.”

“Okay, okay… let me think,” Ticker muttered as he paced back and forth, in the silence of the hideouts main room. D-Rob would’ve preferred if he’d gone somewhere else… but the silence was all that he needed, at least before the exhaustion of the move would draw his interest away the screens before him.

One of them showed the vitals of each test subject, the standard information about the oxygen levels, the heartbeats and the chemicals given to them, each being at a different stage of the changes. Additionally, the screen now featured an entry to get a better read of their brainwaves, comparing them to control readings of medically induced comas. With this recent incident teaching him that, by exposing the subject to a sedative throughout the process of altering said person’s DNA, he’d unwittingly granted her a certain degree of resistance to the compound… Of course, he wasn’t going to bring that up to Ticker, because that would mean it was his fault.

The other screens showed strands of DNA with an analyzer running in the background to try to zero in on the chains of nucleotides that were of interest, producing several messages of notice, but most importantly, comparison between the two samples collected.

One was the purified formula belonging to animan DNA. Taken through a personal endeavor on his own and used as the basis for the current project. A devisor project, D-Rob had taken it as his endeavor to break it down, understand and, ultimately, replicate and improve on someone else’s creation.

And the second one bore the results of a sample taken from their runaway cat, Subject 03. The experiment that appeared to be the most stable yet. The computer analyzed and compared the points, highlighting most, if not all, of the common points with an approving green highlight, both of which filled D-Rob with pride and at the same time infuriated him that all he had of his success was the blood sample.

A smile appeared at the corners of his mouth as he, discreetly, began to copy the research into a thumbdrive, and not a moment too soon as Ticker exclaimed, seemingly spurred into epiphany after staring at a receipt for the rent of the hideout. “What if we make them think we left the city?”

“And how are we going to do that?” D-Rob grumbled. Seemingly annoyed that his employer was looking for a shortcut… but then again, he wasn’t sure what the cost of the Syndicate’s services was… perhaps something he might want to look into if he was determined to get a sort of loan for the next project.

“It’s… about ten in the night. By now the streets are dark and, at our old base, it was near impossible to see. I can have one of our men sneak in and plant down evidence.”

“What sort of evidence?” D-Rob said in the tone one would use on a co-worker about to make a really stupid decision. After all, he was there to make sure that no leads would be left for the police to follow. The word ‘evidence’, just put him on edge.

He didn’t give him much credit, though. “That we left. Maps of the next city with randomly circled districts and building, maybe some sort of itinerary or clues that we left in a hurry. That would throw them off our scent.”

“As long as it’s not too obvious…” D-Rob said. “I know it’s unlikely if she appeared to be still drowsy from the sedation… but assume she made it to police station or the superhero headquarters before sunset and that they’ve already set up an investigation around the perimeter or, in the worst case scenario, set up a trap for us. What then?”

Ticker thought for a moment before snapping his fingers. “The local gangs owe me some favors. Throwing in a bribe should make their cooperation easier. They can be our enforcers or, we can even have them put on act that might sell the story.”

D-Rob sighed. Admittedly, he’d been already starting to feel the exhaustion hit him throughout this conversation. So, he was ambivalent towards the idea. It could be as much a success as it could backfire and, truth be told, he preferred to avoid making the move. As long as he managed to secure the notes and prove his success, he had the feeling he’d be fine. “I’ll leave you to handle that.”

Ticker sighed as he resumed his walk towards the exit. “Good I’ll talk with them and have them work on the fake tracks.”

With that, D-Rob rested his head on his hands, looking to nab just a couple of minutes of sleep before the next crisis would strike, all the while in the background the data was receiving its cautionary backup.

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Conducting this sort of operation during the early morning was as strange as could be. With the clarity and optimism of the day’s blue, mildly cloudy, sky promising a relaxing morning to those that were doing the regular commute to work, it was a harsh contrast to what the members of Crystal Sights knew was at stake. The lives of other people that had been kidnapped and experimented on against their will.

Overnight, Gus’s supercomputer made a sweep through the city, and in particular the records on each of the buildings to find one that met up with the requirements: a factory or industrial complex that had been abandoned, that was located within the perimeter of the homeless camp Lily stayed in and, more importantly, made seemingly excessive use of the power grid in the past couple of weeks. A detail that would’ve been missed hadn’t Gus remembered of adding a time parameter.

The result pointed towards a chemical plant that had been left abandoned after the company that owned it went under after some scandal of the owner. It’d been left alone for over a year until just forty-seven days ago when it resumed work, though there wasn’t a particular company that would claim to have bought it. How the city hall overlooked this, it was either through bureaucratic oversight or bribing. And it kept on working up until yesterday night’s start. As was to be expected for an operation that went into panic.

Of course, this was all supposition.

So, the whole team of Crystal Sights set off to the location to confirm it. Arriving in two cars, they parked in different locations of the district, both at an angle from which they could overlook the place and set off to their predetermined positions.

Timothy and Lily remained in one of the cars, acting as mission control. The younger member of the team, who went by Concerto, his operator name, sat in the passenger’s seat, using his laptop to review any of the gathered videos and pieces of evidence spotted, at the ready to run any software needed while also managing the communication lines. While Lily, rested in the backseat, with her eyes focused on the computer screen. She refused to be left back in the office waiting for news, but at the same time couldn’t be allowed in the field, for a couple of obvious reasons, so she agreed to sit with and help Concerto.

Oscar - operator name: “Dart” - left them to act as a contingency, taking a walk around the perimeter of the factory, walking between the streets and alleyways, sometimes covertly, others merely masquerading as someone who just happened to take the wrong turn. But always at the ready for problems to be had. His reports came, for most of the time, as an all clear, though he did highlight that there were some bikers and gang members sitting on the side, as if waiting for something to happen.

<It’s all clear…> he reported through the comms. <For now… I don’t like the guys there, think that they’re up to something>

<Do you see them as involved?> Concerto asked. <Tell me what you see about them, I can get a message from Detective Rishenbach on their affiliation>

<No need. I recognize the bandannas under their necks and on arms. It’s the Asphalt Biters, a group of bikers from the region. Thugs for hire known for racketeering and extortion. I’ve had a couple of run ins with the guys.”

<I don’t recall us dealing with them.> Gus chimed in, his operator name being Livewire.

<It’s because I do so in my free time.> Dart said with a pleased smile as he got a slight giggle from Lily’s comm.

<Are they armed?> Concerto asked

<They tend to rely on melee weapons, which is what makes fighting them so fun… Though they’re not stupid, one of them probably has a gun in case of emergency.> Dart noted pretending to steal a glance as he turned around the corner, always aware if he were being followed or if they would try to mug him.

<Are we in danger?> Livewire asked.

<Nah…> Dart muttered, using his phone’s mirror to spy around the corner, the group of bikers was still where they were last seen. <They seem to be waiting.>

<Perhaps waiting for a mark?> Esmeralda, Comsat, noted.

<Maybe. Should I linger around? Keep an eye on them?>

<Patrol the surrounding area, let us know if you see anything.> Comsat noted. <Whether you intervene or not is up to you. Just keep it contained.>

<Good.> Dart said relieved. <Have you found anything of interest?>

The last two members of the team, Gus as Livewire and Esmeralda as Comsat, had stepped forward towards the factory that had been signaled by the scan software as the Devisors hideout. Stepping up to the front entrance, Comsat made a shallow sweep of the area ahead. Nothing thorough, but if there was someone in a heightened state preparing to ambush, she would, at least, get a sense of incoming danger. While, Gus made a more thorough investigation using his tools, cracking open the locks and slipping in for an electronic reading.

<Not in particular. We’ll keep you posted.> Comsat muttered as both her and Livewire stopped their transmission, just to be allowed to think clearly. Being the one that often times opened her mind for the transit of thoughts and the management of channels, the silence, especially in what could be situations that might require deep thinking, was welcome from time to time.

The front door led them into the main part of the factory, or at least what was left of it. According to the reports, the place had been abandoned for a year or so, but one would easily assume it’d been for longer considering the state. The machinery had been pillaged, leaving the tubes and cables that were supposed to feed it whatever the inputs were supposed to be. The pieces of wrecks rested in the corners from cast aside broken pieces to boxes and barrels, all of which were empty or apparently hadn’t been touched. The corridors that led deeper into the factory were ominously dark, but didn’t appear to be any more inhabited than the room they were in.

The windows were concealed by tarps that dyed the room in a yellow-ish tone and hardly made the place look any more sanitary, with the exception being a large uncovered one that bore a faint layer of dust that overlooked the east side of the building.

“I don’t see anything.” Livewire said.

“And I feel nothing… “Comsat muttered as she strolled down the center of the building, hearing her footsteps echo around. With her recollection of Lily’s memories, it wasn’t hard to piece together the layout of the place. It helped that the devisor’s chemistry table was a factory fixture, and thus unmovable. From there, it was easier to locate both the place where the computer’s had stood as well as the experimentation vats. “But we’re in the right place.”

Livewire nodded as he pulled back the sleeve of his arm to reveal a set of wires and cables that were wrapped and plugged to the bulky wrist device. Each of the heads unhooked themselves with a pop and, like snakes they lifted their heads, each ending with a pyramidal point that opened by the seams and began to project thin streams of grid lines that were scanning the place, in particular, the spaces that had been pointed by Comsat. And detecting the shifting of dust as well as the slightest residue, he spotted, the lines changed color, thus confirming the account. “So, are we too late?”

“About a day?” Comsat muttered resting her knuckle under her chin. “Let’s see… How long would it take you to move an operation?”

“If it’s as you describe it?” Livewire said as he reeled back the cables, having their heads close and then slip back into his wristwatch to recharge. “Four or five vats filled with chemical fluid, the whole chemistry set and the computers… Depending on the tools could be between twelve hours and twenty four hours? The issue is that the moving would be quite visible if they took everything… so, probably would wait for nightfall to execute the plan. I could check the cameras of the nearby factories to see if there was such movement… but it might take a while.”

“While our prey gets away,” Comsat muttered, as she often tended to do in this situation arose. So, she turned around and pointed her flashlight around, moving towards the corridor. “As unlikely as it might be, there might be some clues around… hm…”

“What is it?” Livewire muttered as he approached his partner, while she knelt down close to the debris.

“I ask, and I receive,” Comsat said as she leaned on next to a nearby trashcan, rustling through the contents but not taking long to produce what she’d been fishing for: a two torn pieces of paper. “This seems like it was thrown recently.”

“Yes, it appears quite new, obviously not thrown here by the last rightful owner of the factory,” Livewire muttered, not even needing to use his intelligent wires to confirm it. “It’s a map?”

“Ripped apart and crumpled…” Comsat said as she moved towards the table un-wrinkling the pieces. By the time they were laid down, the image was clear. It was a map corresponding to the next city over, with markings drawn over it that seemed to highlight certain spots on the map.

Comsat’s hands were rested onto the table as if pretending to be insightfully reading through the contents but was actually instructing Livewire to copy her without opening her lips.

And once he stood opposite to her with his face looking down at the map, he felt her touch within the mental link. <This is a fake, isn’t it?> He asked right away.

<What gave it away?> Comsat answered back.

<Obviously, they just picked up a map and marked random spots. For example, that rightmost mark belongs to a mall… and that one over there is the city hall. Of course, there’s a chance that there is a villain base there and they are already on their way…>

And Comsat completed. <But the biggest clue is that, in a factory floor where they went through painstaking efforts to clean up the place, they just happen to throw such a clue into the trash? Not even tried to flush it down the toilet.>

“So,” Livewire said speaking out loud, only to get a chastising psychic shush from Comsat, getting him to retake the psychic link. <Why are we inspecting the map?>

<Well… let’s assume that I’m on the run and I’m setting a false lead for the investigators. Wouldn’t I have a way of making sure that they’ve taken the bait and are now heading off to a different city?>

<So, you think cameras?>

“Let me take a picture of the evidence,” Livewire said, somewhat leaning close as he produced his phone, though rather than accessing the camera app, instead it was tapping into the micro camera of one of his cables, one that peeked out of his sleeve and began to scan the surroundings, the head was too small to be noticed, but the camera was good enough to spy on different corners of the room <I’m glad that gadgeteer gave me this high resolution micro camera head.>

<Get something?>

<Electroscope is giving up negative signatures.>

<What about out the window?> Comsat muttered as she tried to move around, just to pretend to look for more clues, putting her back towards the window.

<They’re a small crew, right?> Livewire muttered before letting out a victorious mental exclamation. <I have him! Black coat, long scarf, with patched up pants. He seems to be holding some sort of sound gadget. Obviously non-standard… so maybe a gadget?>

<Send a photo to Dart.> Comsat whispered through her mind as she tapped back into the coms and reached out for their field agent. “Hey, Dart… Listen, we found something interesting,” she said, hoping that would be enough information to proceed. “Livewire will be sending you the photo. See if you can get us a lead.”

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The target was as common as could be, except for the parabolic sound catcher, and would easily mix itself with the regular crowd. The fortune was that, in this district, there was no room for regular civilians, just places for gangs waiting for something to happen and those who were up to no good. With the way it was all set up, all it took was a turn around the corner for him to spot the person he was after at the end of the alley.

And not a moment too soon nor late, as the man appeared to be packing things in, fumbling with the borrowed gadget to have it collapse into a more manageable size. He narrowly missed spotting Dart, prompting him to dive back around the corner. “I have him. I think he’s packing it in.” He reported to the open channel.

<Probably thinks we took the bait.> Comsat reported. <That confirms it. See if you can tag him.>

“On it,” Dart mumbled muttered as he peeked through a hole on the fence, seeing the target turn towards the north. “He’s going north on the map.”

<north?> Concerto interjected. <Wouldn’t that mean he’s getting closer towards that gang you spotted?>

The Asphalt Biters were evidently waiting for something rather than just slacking around. The goon was either unaware and incredibly careless as to where he was going and he was the mark they were waiting for… or, there was a sort of agreement between the two groups. Either way, them together didn’t feel like the easy option. “It’ll be really hard to get close… I can handle them, but there’s a chance he might get away.” After some waiting, he concluded: “I’m going in… I might ruffle some feathers and will definitely get into a fight, but I’ll get it done.” And as he said that, followed the lead, breaking into a trot northward hoping to intercept the mark through a perpendicular alley

<Wait… are you really going in?> Lily’s voice rang through his hears, getting him to smile.

<I’ll be fine, Lily. I’ve dealt with it before. Sure, I’ve gotten my ass beat up before but that’s how I learned to not fall for it again.> Oscar said, mostly as a jest, since his plan was to jump on the target before he could reunite with the gang, but was unaware of the concern it would rouse on their client because the next thing he heard was the sound of a car door opening and closing and Concerto calling out.

<Lily! Lily! Where are you going?>

“Oh no…” At that time, Dart turned around the corner into the alley that would have him in collision course. However, a couple of steps in, he witnessed the henchman already passing past the point at a jogging pace. An error in calculation that would definitely lead into him engaging with the gang… still, he couldn’t allow the lady to worry. “Lily! Lily! Stop! I have this.”

<It’s no use,> Concerto answered instead. <She doesn’t have a comm piece.>

<What? Why not?>

<She’s been having trouble in getting it to stick to her ear. It’s fallen off.”

“Shoot!” Dart sprinted as she made it around the corner. Not many picked up on his appearance, though, because a voice called out on the other end of the crowd. Lily’s voice.

“Hey!” She screamed to the top of her lungs. “I’m looking for the monster who did this to me! Where are you!?”

If that didn’t get their attention, her appearance would. Evidently the sight of a woman with a tail and face of a hairless cat was too much to dismiss.

“It’s you! I remember you from the factory! You’re one of the two people who dragged me to the showers! You were one of the two who always drew blood from me!” She said, her voice carrying within itself a wild threatening hiss, but still refusing to charge forth, especially as the biker gang had pulled themselves up from their resting spot ready to fight. The sight of the lead pipes, knives and even chains in their hands was enough to get Lily to flinch, but she still tried to remain strong.

“What is she trying to do?” Dart thought, almost near a panic before he caught a pleading look from the cat woman. With that, he resumed his plan and began to approach the henchman with his fastest quiet steps.

“It’s the experiment. My boss’ experiment!” The man called out, just a couple of meters away from the gang, giving them the new orders. “Capture her alive and I’m sure he’ll double your pay!”

A tempting order, and, by the looks of it, a hint that the pay must’ve already been a good amount to begin with because the men began their approach towards Lily and one by one sprinted after right after she tried to flee. Two of them lingered behind just to hear a gagging exclamation and the sound of wrestling as Dart wrapped his arm around the henchman’s neck.

“Who-” he managed to say, but as much as he tried to flee, the ex-soldier wouldn’t give him the chance to flee as his hand gripped the neck of the man’s coat.

“Intelligence service. Tell us where’s your boss,” Dart whispered, keeping him in place. With a forceful step, he tried to pull them back and the henchman saw this as his chance to struggle, using the small step-worth of space between them to try to stomp on his captor’s foot. An attempt that Dart caught up on and punished, slamming his boot down in such way that his ankle felt the pressure. Just not enough to break it but enough to leave him reeling with the pain. <Speak!> He ordered.

“City… To the east…”

<He’s lying.> Concerto chimed in through the open comm.

“Who do you work for?” Dart asked, clearly anxious, not because the two members of the gang were stepping closer, but because of Lily and the image of her being chased by the rest of the gang. And what would entail if she were to get caught.

“His name is Ticker.” The man said, seemingly remembering something as he reached down into his pocket for something.

“Ticker?” Dart repeated before, feigning to be surprised when the man drew out a weapon from his pocket: a switchblade. With the press of the button, its edge came out and was about to come down in a blind stabbing motion aiming for the captor’s stomach.

Dart had already taken several steps back, letting the knife stab the air, but he still pretended to have been touched by the tip, clutching his stomach. All that just to see what the guy would do then.

Surprisingly, the henchman didn’t pursue the attack or tried to jump for the kill, and instead opted to sprint down the nearest open alley. A cowardly run that Dart could still catch up with hadn’t the two lingering members of the Asphalt Biters decided to try knocking him down.

One of them, holding a metal pipe jumped forth, bringing his weapon down toward Dart’s head, but it failed to connect as the man easily slipped to the side, using his arm to parry and deflect it into the path of the other, who held out a large knife. The metals clashed and blocked each other, giving him the chance to counterattack swiftly. One slicing chop onto the pipe thug’s wrist got his weapon confiscated, and with clever positioning of the legs and a push, he was thrown down to the ground in a painful way, one that wouldn’t allow him to swiftly jump back.

The one with the knife kept pressing the attack, moving forth with the blade held forth, sending it swinging and lashing, but at the same time being far more cautious than the one before, immediately reeling back from every attempt in case he counterattacked. If Dart paid attention to the members of the gang, he might assume that he’d faced this one before in a previous encounter. Still, attack after attack, were missed or halted by the metal pipe. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for him to revel on the fight, so he made his two moves to put the fighter out of commission.

By the end of the fifth knife swing, he stepped forth, closing the distance far more than any normal person and struck in his opponent’s Position Zero, the point of his fighting style where his stance would reset, that meant, the spot he knew the knife would be. One hard hit on the back of the hand got him to drop it, and then, forcing his arm to wrap around the steel pipe, threw the man with ease against the ground and onto his buddy, possibly inflicting enough trauma to his limb to keep him from doing any mugging for a good couple of days.

“Sorry, but I don’t have the time to do this. I have to save a friend,” Dart muttered throwing the pipe down to the ground before setting off north, trying to follow Lily’s trail. “Timothy! I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but I want you to tell me where Lily ran off to.”

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“What was I thinking? What was I thinking?” Lily thought. Even if she were to actually regard her life as over given her change, she was sure she wouldn’t throw herself out of it in the most painful way. But she didn’t want Dart, or rather Oscar, to get injured out of recklessness. Even if it was his job.

Last night, he might’ve told her of his fighting skills and some of the deeds he accomplished: such as managing to outdraw two men in a standoff or facing off an entire gang comprised of MMA members in a hand to hand fight. But she reasoned he was just boasting, after all, he told her he was a baseline. She might’ve been quite worried when she heard that there would be an encounter with a gang, but when she saw the knives, sticks, chains, and even gun among the men, she felt like she needed to help.

She’d gathered her courage and stepped out in the open before making that warning claim, all to buy Dart the chance to get closer to the target, if not to make it an easier fight. Although she would be lying if she were to say she didn’t mean it nor took any pleasure out of seeing the face of one of the henchmen go from surprise to a little bit of panic. Sure, he later sent the gang members after her, putting up a bounty for her head, but that moment felt like it was worth it, if not the only feeling of comeuppance she imagined she would get out of it.

Her legs carried her down the alleyway in lithe steps, moving at much faster speed and ease than she’d expected herself to be capable off now that she wasn’t feeling the effects of hunger nor the aftermath of whatever drug cocktail, she had within her. The men behind her struggled to keep up and, for a moment, she grew confident that she would be able to get out. The fear of getting shot lingered in her mind. The thought of hearing a bang and feeling the piercing pain through her was a worry, but she was quietly reassured that they wanted her alive. In those long stretches of her sprint, she half lamented that she jumped forth without an actual plan. Believing that it would’ve been good to take Concerto’s comm device, or one of the gadgets Livewire showed her before their departure today… Still, with the distance covered, she began to feel better about her chances of making it unscathed.

That is until she turned around into an alleyway and spotted a large blockade in her path. A chain link fence that separated the main street from this side path between the two closed up warehouse. Reinforced with a couple of planks of woods to increase the height of it, adding an extra meter and a half to the height.

Still, something within Lily reassured her she could clear that obstacle. A feeling that she was inclined to humor just for the sake of not losing the momentum she carried.

She leapt onto the wall and covered a good chunk of the height. She clung from the chain fence and pulled herself up, her claws unsheathed in desperation and digging into the wood for a hold before allowing herself to push further. Which took much less effort than she expected thanks to her light body. Back before her ordeal, she exercised to keep herself fit, but used to do so halfheartedly. So, once she was out of the vat, and allowed herself to take stock of the situation, she was incredibly slim when in comparison even making herself believe she was emaciated from her induced coma.

The top of the fence was within sight. She would’ve crossed the fence within less than ten seconds, something that she was already imagining herself bragging about. But in her speed, she forgot about the real risk of falling. And it presented itself in the worst of times: when her hand reached up to clasp onto one of the added panels. Her claws dug in but did so with so much force that the flimsy piece of wood couldn’t handle it, especially at its thinnest. The piece shattered in a crack that spread over to the string that kept it bound to the others. A domino effect that meant a hard stop for someone who had been relying on her speed to make the climb. With no greater foothold, she ended up falling down to the ground, with her own pull sending away from the reach of the chain link surface.

And, as much as she hated to admit it, her body was still that of a feline and her reflexes kicked in. She threw her body in the air, just to allow herself to turn and face the ground wherein she caught herself with all four limbs. A perfect cat landing that she couldn’t believe she’d pulled, her heart and body were still dealing with the fall, but she knew that this wasn’t the time to admire, especially as her ears picked up on the sound of the men drawing closer.

With no other choice on the matter, she sprinted back the way she came from, just as the gang members came into view. Her only option was to brace through and sprint past them. The first and nearest men was caught off guard by her charge and reeled back, fortunately that one was the guy with the gun holster under his coat, so that wouldn’t be a risk, yet. She thought she could easily run into the nearby alley to keep him from getting a good shot once he recovered his composure.

The second nearest man was far more forward and instead tried to catch her, running in an interception path with her. Arms stretched it would’ve been a hard tackle that might’ve easily overpowered her. Fortunately, with the ground under her pads and her heightened senses, she managed to force herself into a hard stop just to let him fly past and immediately resumed her run before the third person could grab her on the spot.

She thought she was almost out and was spurred further when she glimpsed the nearby alley blocked in by a chain link fence. She now knew she could clear that obstacle without an issue and that it would be enough to lose her pursuers. And yet, luck wouldn’t have it. So distracted she was, thinking she could outrun them, she didn’t notice one of them had a sprinting head start that would catch up to her as she made the turn down the main alley. He came in swinging with a lead pipe seeking her legs.

And it connected.

She’d tried to avoid it and mitigate the damage pulling it away, but it still struck her, forcing a pained scream out of her feline muzzle. Not enough to break it, but enough to leave her with a bruise and had her tumble on her run. She hit the ground at a hard speed, with the stone gravel on the ground scraping her skin and clothes in a cloud of dust.

“We got you,” One of the men said as he tried to catch his breath as more ran ahead. By the time Lily could raise and force herself up on her feet, she was already surrounded, each of them brandishing a weapon ready to bring her down as if they were about to wrangle some animal. She instinctively played the part, hissing and keeping herself low, her ankle ached from the recent hit, but they didn’t know she couldn’t perform an explosive leap out of the spot. Her claws were unsheathed, unable to believe she was actually considering use them again.

Still, that hardly dissuaded them, just had them be more on the ready for the attack. One held a large knife, two held a pipe, one was swinging a chain, prepared to use it as a whip against her and one had the gun held out toward her, prepared to shoot.

In position, they just began to talk just to see who would take the initiative.

“Look at her…”

“She’s horrible. What is it? A furless rat?”

“No? She looks more like a skinned chicken.”

“Better be careful… that guy said Ticker wants her alive.” One of them told the one with the gun.

“What for? I have no idea.”

“Experiments are experiments, we’re just getting paid.”

The man with the gun then addressed his comrades. “So, who’s going to go in and subdue her?”

“Why don’t you? Someone else answered.

“Because I’m the one holding the gun.” That answer seemed to shut down the detractor and silence reined for a quiet moment, in which Lily’s ears perked. “Robbie, you have the chains, you should do it.”

“Me? Why-” the man was about to complain when out of the sudden, a piece of metal flew through the air from around a nearby alley and struck the only gun in sight, sending it flying to the ground.

“Leave my friend alone,” Dart announced as he stepped into view with a running sprint, blindsiding the man holding the knife. In one swift motion, his wrist was taken, forcing him to drop the bladed weapon only to be confiscated right after and held up against his own throat. By the time the man reeled back from the introductory punch, he stiffened, suddenly realizing the position he’d been placed in. It only gave credence to Dart’s story and, more importantly, his abilities.

The gang members reeled back as one of their own was held as a threat. Though Lily could hear them something along the lines of. “It’s him… It’s the vigilante.” “Let’s get back.” “The gun… someone reach for it.”

It was that last one that prompted her to react, seeing the gun lying on the gravel just a couple of steps away from her, and a step away from the brute that almost tackled her. She had the intention of making a break for it.

Dart seemed to read her mind because he followed by throwing the nabbed knife. Lily’s reflexes told her to flinch and jump back at the fast projectile, but she opted to trust him. It paid off as the blade narrowly missed her striking the concrete slab on the ground and bouncing off it in a wild spin that threatened to leave off some nasty cuts, naturally, the paid thug recoiled back and that step of advantage he had, became two back. Just perfect for Lily to leap in, grab the gun and immediately jump away.

“Lily! Get behind me!” Dart called out, forcing the man he held hostage to tumble and then sending him up against a friend.

“I have the gun.” She said as she leapt forth, narrowly dodging one of the guys that tried to swing at her. With a leap that was partly to show off her newly discovered agility and lightweight and to mostly put good distance, she vaulted over Dart’s shoulder.

“Good jump,” He praised her.

“I didn’t know I could do it,” Lily noted, trying not to let them see her blush.

“I had the feeling you could,” Dart answered.

Suddenly the fear appeared less, and it was in no small part for his presence. But she still felt the fear that they could take them down, that they could lay their hands on her and hurt Dart. She looked down at the gun on her hands and found them shaking, both because of the adrenaline that was coursing through her veins and because she believed that using the firearm was imperative to winning. Even though she’d never used it before nor felt keen on starting now, she fumbled to get a proper hold of it. Yet… before she could raise it, Dart was holding his arm out.

“Don’t use that.”

“But…” Lily stuttered, her fear easily picked up by the other Asphalt Biters. Knowing that she wasn’t willing to pull the trigger gave them the courage to charge ahead with the closest one coming down to swing down his pipe down onto them.

Dart, however, had other plans and, rather than stepping back or trying to shield her, which appeared to be what the thug expected, he stepped forth, closing in the distance outstretching his leg to connect down to the man’s stomach. Not a finishing blow, and certainly not one that forced him to lock his knee, but enough to slow him. Stealing some of his momentum, Dart pivoted on the spot and switched legs, bringing the other one up fast and higher to the point it struck the man’s outstretched arm. A hit that forced him to drop the pipe and let Dart snatch it.

And not a moment too soon as he held it to the side to catch a chain, letting the links coil themselves around its length. “Don’t need you to use a gun. You won’t need it as long as you have me.” He punctuated raising his leg and bringing it down to the tensed chain. The man on the other end overestimated his own strength and the leverage and found himself pulled forth where in his opponent deftly used to the chain to bind him.

One of the men, now back up, grabbed the knife and jumped in tandem with the remaining blunt pipe wielder. Both of them tried to bring the attack and pressure down on Dart. But Lily came to realize that he was a man of his word and was indeed having an easy time dodging and striking in precise points with such fluidity that she was almost mesmerized. But not oblivious to her surroundings.

The man that had his elbow painfully kicked tried to still fight, despite only having one good arm that wasn’t experiencing the weakness of trauma. He moved forth towards Lily, trusting that his strength lone would overpower her and, while she was sure her body had grown stronger from whatever treatment she received, she feared that might actually be the case.

And yet, in a snap judgment, she refused to run but at the same time, had no idea how she could fight.

“Miss McLaren, stay still!” Someone called from behind strange objects that flew in a blur past her. Things that appeared to glimmer and bear the thickness of iron but did so in circular springs. Not just to her but also to the men that Dart was fighting.

Once they found the bodies, they exploded, almost like a dark iron party popper, into several smaller strings that seemingly gained a life of their own and wrapped themselves around the hired thugs. At first, they tried to fight it and try to rip them off, but the strings, about as thick as her pinkie appeared to be made of live metal as the fibers creaked and tightened, forcing man’s limbs into a still position, with the skin reddening from the exerted force.

“I had them,” Dart objected, seeing his own opponents fall down to the ground, bound by the cables as they forced their hands around their back and together. Knowing what he had to do, he reached into his belt’s pouch and produced a couple of simple plastic zipties and began to move around binding each of the captured members, starting by the ones who didn’t have Livewire’s iron ropes cutting their circulation.

“Well, we… ahem… we figured we should help. And finish the fight.” Livewire explained, in his attempt at some light banter.

“We were worried, can you blame us?” Comsat said, also arriving to the scene, moving up to Lily. “We were more than worried when Concerto told us you walked out on us.”

“I’m sorry,” Lily muttered. “I got worried… and I wanted to help.” She said to hide the two thoughts that worried her: that she did care for Oscar, and that she thought that her life was over… and still does,

“It’s okay,” Comsat said gently. She would’ve pulled her into an embrace weren’t they on site. “Just be careful. I know you might feel like your life is crumbling and that there’s no way out… But you have to trust that you don’t know the end of things and move ahead one step at the time.”

“Did you read my mind?” Lily asked.

“I don’t do that. I’m just a very empathetic person. Imagined what you must’ve been going through,” Comsat whispered as she stepped up to the crowd of captured men.

Now that they were each bound on zipties, the iron ropes eased up on the tension and slithered off towards their master. One by one they just leapt up onto his hand and slipped in underneath the sleeve of his coat.

“So… are you going to tell us who hired you? About who this man is?” Comsat instructed as she produced her phone and shared a photo of the man that got away. The goon of the devisor that experimented on her.

The men exchanged looks, seemingly frustrated from their defeat. Some prodding, and the team gained the insight they needed on the case, which wasn’t much. The men were contacted by their boss at the first hour of the morning and were given their assignment. It was to keep the henchman safe and sound for as long as he was within the district, also to throw off the trail of any pursuer.

 All they knew was of the amount of money at stake, a total of five hundred dollars for a simple bodyguard job. They had no idea on who was hiring them nor what were their intentions. They didn’t even have any knowledge of the operations in the abandoned factory.

But it didn’t matter, Crystal Sights had more than enough to go on with.


To Be Continued

Read 1149 times Last modified on Monday, 13 February 2023 15:46


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