Scene 13 – October 20th
Exterior Vivaldi Park, Continuous
“I’ve got to tell you, Legion, I’m a little fed up with this right now,” I said without turning around, instead tracking her with ESP as she approached. “I mean, I literally just ran into you a second ago, and here you are again!”
“Yes, I know,” she said. This Legion’s voice was a little deeper than the one Canaveral and I had just been fighting. She was taller and more broadly built, too – I supposed that there was a limit to how far she could compress the mass of the tree she had just been pretending to be. “She was meant to be speaking to – well, the important thing is that the two of us have swapped roles in this visit to your lovely city.”
“How did you do that?” I asked, trying to keep her talking and not attacking. “I thought you didn’t have a hivemind. Did she take a moment to give you a ring?”
“We don’t, and no – phones are too easy to trace. But we can communicate information by merging our nervous systems, so…” A bird sprouted from her finger and flew around me, then returned to her hand and was reabsorbed. “A little bird told me.”
“…and the other one went to your third incarnation.”
She was close enough now that even with my ESP not being incredibly precise I was able to feel her tilt her head a little in acknowledgment. “Exactly – although I don’t know what she was told.”
I turned to look at her. “You seem chattier than the green one. A little less murdery.” Her face was a little different too, I though – or maybe it was just that her hair was a little shorter, it was hard to tell.
Legion shrugged. “We’re all a little different,” she said. “Our powers let us perfectly replicate any biological structure that we’ve absorbed, yes, but they’re a little less precise when we’re following a template that we haven’t absorbed – although at least we can do it more than once.”
“Your brain,” I realized.
The shapeshifter nodded. “Each time we create a duplicate, the brain is a little different. Not much, but enough – particularly as we immediately begin having different experiences. We call it drift, and we try to keep the number of duplications since the original down – for example, I’m a third generation, so I won’t be duplicating myself at all unless absolutely necessary. I suppose the me you met may have drifted a little more aggressive, and perhaps I drifted a little less so.”
“Since you’re feeling so talkative, why are you here?”
“I drifted less aggressive, not more naive,” she said with a chuckle. “I’m hear to talk to someone – so is she, actually – but I’m not about to tell you who, or about what.” The woman eyed me. “Unless… no, best to be sure. I’ll do it another way.”
“…sure about what?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll just say this. That suit you’re wearing? It granted you your powers, didn’t it?”
“How did you-”
“Not important. What is important is that my boss would be very interested in getting their hands on it. They never thought that it worked at all. I would consider very carefully who you tell about it, and try to stay out of the public eye.”
She gave me a surprisingly gentle smile. “And the best way to keep away from publicity is to not become a hero. Do something else with your life. Something safer.” The shapeshifter patted me on the shoulder, and I tried not to tense up to much. “Good luck, Newton. I truly wish you well.”
She walked back to where she had been hiding as a tree and extended a hand. Her arm stretched and bent and warped until the tree stood there once more and she separated from it, a good foot shorter and considerably slimmer as well. She then spread both arms and they extended into wings, and with one giant flap she was in the air and gone.
“We now return you to your regularly scheduled nervous breakdown,” I muttered, pulling off my mask and staring it. “…what the hell was that all about?”
Scene 14 – October 20th
Exterior Townhouse, Evening
“Alright, say your piece,” I spat at the shapeshifter. “What is it?”
“Ah ah ah,” Legion said, waggling a finger at me. “Not until we’re in a more secure location than, well…” she gestured to the townhouses around her. “And besides, I’m sure you have an earpiece, don’t you?”
I gestured to my uncostumed state. “Sure don’t. I was kind of in the middle of something when you showed up.”
Legion smiled – at least, she showed teeth. “Oh I see! You’re all alone then, aren’t you? You just sent away your only help. No back-up, no costume… poor little lost hero…”
“If you have something to say, then say it, before I go back to ripping you to shreds,” I growled. “I’m not in the mood for banter right now. You’ve kind of ruined what was supposed to be a nice night.”
“Oh? I didn’t interrupt anything private, did I?”
“I’m going to to give you until a count of ten. One…”
She rolled her eyes. “Just give me your assurance that you won’t put this little chat in your report, and I’ll say what I have to say.”
“Then give me a reason not to. Five…”
Legion produced a badge that read Ambrosia Co. “Is this good enough?”
“…talk.” I had had no idea she was part of Ambrosia. This… could explain a lot about her unpredictable activities.
She reabsorbed the badge and began examining her nails, as though they could be anything less than perfect given her shapeshifting abilities. “Madam Thornhill is a trifle annoyed with your recent drug bust,” she informed me. “She had plans for that brawn.”
I crossed my arms. “And? It’s my job. A job your company is responsible for me having, by the way.”
“Oh, she’s not annoyed at you,” Legion assured me. “As you say, it’s your job. No, her ire is directed at a friend of yours. One Maxwell Copperfield.”
My blood froze. “You’re here for Max,” I heard myself say, my voice thick with sudden worry.
“Oh yes. He’s had dealings with our company in the past, you see, and Thornhill isn’t happy that he decided to go against us.”
“What are you going to do to him.”
“Me? Nothing,” Legion chuckled. “And no, I don’t mean that a different me is going to kill him. I just want to talk to the man. He’s being given a second chance, you see.” She paused for a moment, but I said nothing. “It won’t even be a hardship for him – I understand that he’s already chosen his next target, and it’s exactly what we would have had him steal. All we want is to borrow it, a little.”
“So what are you doing here,” I stressed.
“Here? Nothing, anymore – I’ve passed that task on to a different me. I just need to know Max’s location,” Legion said. “After all, he gave away his hideout’s rough location to you a few days ago – he’s bound to have moved by now.”
“…I…” I rubbed my temples. Really. “What makes you think I’ll tell you?” I finally asked.
She shifted her hand into the badge again. “You still have two favors left, Abraham Armstrong,” she said. “…come now, surely you knew this was coming eventually?”
“So what, just tell you where you can find him, and, I assume, don’t stop you from doing so?”
I thought about it. It was certainly simpler than the last favor I had done for the Ambrosia Company. Less dangerous, too. And, I hoped, maybe less evil? …on the other hand, I had thought that I was rescuing someone, back then. Ambrosia had a way of making things more complicated – they told you only what you needed to know, and more than that, only what would be palatable to you. But, as I had learned from that favor, there was always more beneath the surface. What was Max planning on going after, and what would be the result of Ambrosia borrowing it?
“Fine, I’ll tell you,” I said after a few minutes as she patiently waited. “But you have to tell me what you intend on borrowing from Max.”
She shrugged. “There’s no harm in it, I suppose. He’s after an instructional book written by Merlin. Mr. Mercer would also very much like to see that book, which I don’t think will come as a surprise to you. So…”
“…fine. He’ll still be in his building on the docks,” I told her. “The man’s too lazy to move.”
“…he has magical powers that can literally pack up everything he owns in the snap.”
“And he won’t have used them,” I assured her. “He gets hyperfocused on things and forgets about everything else, unless something drags him out of his tunnel vision – and he doesn’t have anyone to do that for him right now.”
Legion facepalmed. “That’s what I get for assuming the best of people.” She turned to go.
“Wait,” I called before I could stop myself. “Why did you waste one of my favors on something so simple?”
She gave me a smile over her shoulder. “One good turn deserves another. You helped save my life, Canaveral – the least I can do is help you get out from under Ambrosia’s thumb.” Then she was gone in a flurry of black wings, rising up and away as a flock of crows.
I stared. When – how – what?