Scene 8 – October 20th
Interior MLED Compound, Early Evening
“So,” I began, “the normal procedure when Legion is in town is to call in Aegis. He’s immune to everything she does – obviously,” I added, trying to bring a bit of levity into the situation. “Problem is that absolute invulnerability is in high demand, and he’s a very busy man. As of this morning’s commander briefing, he was dealing with an incursion from a parallel universe in California, and not expected to be available for another three days.”
“A parallel universe?” Simone asked. “Are those a thing?”
“Apparently,” I said with a shrug. “I’ll put in a request, but don’t expect him until then. Fortunately,” I said to the microphone in the wall, “we have an invulnerable man of our own. Isn’t that right, Vulcan?”
“Sir,” Adam protested, sounding embarrassed. “I’m nothing like tough as Aegis.”
“You’re probably tougher than any organic constructs she can put together, though,” Emilia pointed out. “And since you’re not organic yourself, in metal form, she won’t be able to absorb you.”
“Exactly,” I said, walking past her to the center of the room. I briefly touched her side as I passed, and she put a hand over mine – we exchanged a smile, then I continued. “So Zookeeper, I want you to relieve Vulcan of console duty. He’s going to be on stand-by to go up against any instances of Legion that we have a location on. You, Journey,” I said, turning to the young teleporter, “will be his transport.” Emilia nodded and began jogging to the console.
“I’m mostly out of distance,” Journey warned. “Depending on where in the city she’s found, I’ve probably only got one there-and-back trip left in me. I’ve been meaning to mention it, but…”
“Then that will have to do,” I said. “If necessary, I’ll head out as well, since I’m the fastest person here beside you.” I sighed. “We need to get you another cross country trip soon,” I noted, and the young heroine nodded.
At that moment, Vulcan stepped in from the console room. Adam Abelard didn’t have much a distinction between his civilian and superhero identities – the main difference was how formal his clothes were. The young man tended to wear button-downs and sweaters when he could, trying to reduce the intimidating effect of being a six-foot-four black man built like a truck by putting on a nerdy exterior, or so I had always assumed. Of course, my own goofy persona was at least partially for the same reason, so who was I to judge? The young hero entered the room halfway through pulling off today’s sweatervest, leaving him in khaki pants and a white button down. “Do we have any idea where she is?” he asked.
“Not yet,” I said. “But hopefully we will soon. Nic? She was reported about ten minutes south of the Compound.”
“Give me a moment,” the young man said, leaning against the wall. “I’m going to try to only send my vision so that I can still talk with you guys…” He closed his eyes and slumped a moment later. “… no, sorry, I can’t hear you,” he murmured. “But I’ll give you updates as I go. Right now I’m at the corner of Lander and Evans and continuing south. No sign of her yet.”
Adam walked over to Simone, giving her a shy smile. “How’s Megan?” he asked.
She sighed. “We’re on a break right now, unfortunately. How’s Tyrone?”
“Us too,” he said, gloomily. “At least the boss’s love-life is doing fine.”
Loki glanced at them. “Didn’t you hear? He and Emilia broke up with Max last month,” he said.
“Enough chatter,” I said, shooting the cluster of young heroes a glare, then winked to show that I wasn’t actually mad. “I don’t mind you gossiping about me, but seriously, eyes on the prize. Pay attention to Nic and keep an ear out for anything Zookeeper calls in with. Simone, Adam, you two in particular need to be ready to move at a moment’s notice.”
Nic continued feeding reports over the next few minutes, but Legion hadn’t made another appearance yet and without actually spotting her transforming, it was impossible to actually know who she was. It was shaping up to be a long night already.
I had to wonder what had brought Legion to New Venice. Her motivations tended to be a mystery – she sometimes mentioned having a boss, but other times insisted that she worked alone. And her actual actions held little pattern as well – in one city she would target one specific person and devour them, while in another she would steal an item from a museum. Here she would appear in public and fend off all attackers before leaving empty-handed, there she would quietly surrender to the MLED. It could be anything.
Anima and Sequoia had just returned to the Compound when I got a call on my cell phone. A quick glance at the screen said that it was Newton – I made a mental note to change their contact info now that I knew the kid’s name as I answered. “What is it? Don’t tell me that you’ve stumbled right into Legion,” I joked.
There was silence. “Kid?” I asked, starting to get worried. Had something happened? Was it just an accidental call? “Come on, talk to me.”
“You said not to tell you,” came the whispered reply.
“What!” I face-palmed, and put them on speakerphone. “You have the worst luck, kid.”
“Tell me about it. I’m on Shiketsu Street, between Hebert Avenue and Elm Street. There are two of her here right now – one with blue hair, one with purple.”
“Alright, someone will be there in a minute.” I glanced at Simone. “Journey, how many round trips could you make to Shiketsu Street?”
“Hm… only one, I think,” she said apologetically. “I could get there, back, and halfway there again, but then I’d be out.”
I glanced at Vulcan contemplatively. I could send the metal man in first and have Simone bring Quinn back to safety, and take the halfway trip himself. That was probably the best –
“Wait, shit, they’re both gone!” Quinn swore. “I don’t know where they went, I’m sorry!”
…or maybe I should go myself to check in on the kid. Plus I was better at pursuit and tracking than Vulcan – I had nothing against Adam, the man was a fast learner, but I had been doing this for seven years to Vulcan’s three. “One moment, Quinn,” I said, and hung up. “Journey, take me there. Then come back and bring Vulcan as close as you can. I’ll track down at least one of the Legions – once we capture her, hopefully she can tell us what the other one is up to.”
Scene 9 – October 20th
Exterior City, Continuous
A few seconds after I had pulled my cowl back on – there wasn’t time to done the rest of the Canaveral suit, but I’d manage – I was standing next to Newton, who had apparently changed into their costume at some point in the last half hour. Simone dropped his hand, gave Newton an encouraging smile, then vanished in a swirl of spacetime.
“…wait, why didn’t she take me back with her?” Quinn asked. “I figured you wouldn’t want me in Legion’s vicinity.”
I sighed. “Because I didn’t actually say for her to, and she apparently didn’t think of it herself. And it’s too late now – she’s used up too much of her built-up distance and can’t get all the way back here, let alone teleport anywhere once she arrived. I’m going to have to escort you to safety myself.”
Quinn nodded. “Still being trained?” they said sympathetically.
“She’s through the six-month training period, this is just an experience thing. But anyway, you said that you saw Legion?”
“Pretty sure,” they said with a firm nod. “My ESP picked up one person here, then two people a moment later, who might as well have been twins. Then one of them changed shape.”
“That seems pretty definitive,” I agreed. “Any other details?”
They shook their head. “Sorry. I tried to stay quiet and back from the edge, so I wouldn’t be noticed, and just called immediately. I peeked over again with my ESP – just stuck a finger over – and they were gone. Sorry for losing them.”
“No, you did the right thing. Legion is dangerous as hell.” I took a minute to poke around, but didn’t find much. Not that I particularly expected to, if I was being honest with myself. “Alright, let’s start moving. Where were you off to?”
“Just home – in Keystone Heights.”
“That’s closer than the Compound at this point, so lead the way.”
Scene 10 – October 20th
Exterior City, Continuous
“Can you tell me a little about Legion?” I asked as we began moving. “I find myself kind of curious about the villain I nearly ran into.”
“Sure, what do you want to know?”
“She’s high threat level, I’m guessing?” Canaveral nods. “What’s the usual response to people like that?”
“At high threat level, we stop ignoring identities, for one thing,” he said. “Unfortunately it doesn’t much matter, in this case – Legion’s real name is Penelope Page, but we can’t exactly track her out of costume when she’s such a powerful shapeshifter.”
“I see the problem.”
“We try to only send in people that are immune to their most dangerous abilities,” he continued. “Aegis is the ideal, of course, but he’s not available right now – in New Venice, the closest we get is Vulcan.”
“She absorbs organic matter, right?” I ask. “He turns into metal, she can’t do anything to him.”
“She can’t devour him, no. Although to be honest…” he sighed. “Alright, this is a complicated thing and I have to back up a moment. Remember how she can recreate biological structures?”
“There are a lot of really scary possibilities with that. See, brains are also biological structures…”
I went pale. “Are you saying that she can read people’s minds after eating them?”
“No, reading information out of a brain isn’t so simple. But she can recreate a person’s head later, and interrogate them as much as she likes.”
“That’s somehow even worse,” I decided. “Being devoured and just dying forever is one thing, even if she knows everything you did. But if she can bring you back only to torture you?”
“Yeah, it’s not pretty to think about,” he agreed with a wince. “On the other hand, it also means that the people she eats aren’t necessarily gone forever. After one of Legion’s bodies is captured, she’s usually willing to bring back one or more of her victims in exchange for something.”
I considered this. “What kinds of things?”
“It varies a lot,” the hero told me. “Sometimes she wants to talk to someone in particular and deliver a message, other times she wants to have another prisoner released. It’s hard to predict. But that’s what we’re hoping for every time she shows up.” He sighed. “There are always more victims, unfortunately.”
“How can you know that it’s the person she brought back, and not just a sleeper agent?”
“Brain scans, like I said, and power testing. If it’s Legion’s brain – and we do have scans of her – then it’s her, and will have her shapeshifting power. If it’s not, then it’s the actual person, and they’ll be able to use their own power.”
“Is there a procedure for that?” I couldn’t help but ask. “People coming back from the dead?”
“For Legion in particular, you’re listed as missing-in-action rather than deceased, so you get back pay for the time you were taken,” he said. “If you’re a hero, at least – civilians have to make their own arrangements. People have come back from other things on occasion, but as far as I know she’s the only one that’s regular enough for a specific rule to have been made.”
“So she’s beatable then,” I optimistically said. “If people capture her and bring back her victims so regularly.”
“I wonder, sometimes,” Canaveral mused. “Her patterns since she first appeared around five years ago have been so irregular, no one really knows what she’s after. It feels like she’s playing a different game than the rest of us are. I’ve fought her three times – not here, this was before I was transferred to New Venice – and I can’t help but think that she let us win the one time we captured her.”
We fell silent until we reached my home.