Scene 30 – October 24th
Interior MLED Compound, Morning
I sighed in displeasure as I looked at my schedule for the day. “Really, Henry? You put Legion’s interrogation as the first thing on my schedule?”
My deputy director shrugged. “I knew you would want to handle such a dangerous villain yourself,” he said, and I had to admit that the man was right. “And the rest of your day is already packed with other appointments. There was no other time, Susan.”
I pulled a face, knowing that I was being childish, but nodded. “Thank you, Henry. I’ll see you tonight.”
My deputy director was a night owl and always had been – he was much happier as my deputy, taking the night shift, than he had been as director. To be fair, I was happier too – I didn’t mind the night shift, but they were boring more often than not. Although I complained to him – and he was the only one in the MLED that I allowed myself to be so informal with, and vice versa – I enjoyed having a full schedule, and night shifts tended to be slow. Most crimes happened during the day, contrary to what cop shows might claim, and so do job orientations, press conferences, interviews, and all the other things than an MLED Director had to accomplish.
Yes, I enjoyed my job. What would I fill my time with if I wasn’t here, after all?
Henry nodded to me and began wheeling himself out of the office we shared. I took a few minutes to skim his summary of the night once more – we had gone over it before he left, but I liked to keep things fresh in my mind – then brushed a bit of dog hair off the cuff of my suit jacket before I began making my way down to the cell where we held a copy of Penelope Page, better known as Legion.
I nodded to the trooper manning the checkpoint outside the cell block wing as he saluted me. “Morning, agent.”
“Ma’am,” he responded. He checked the badge that I held to him, then the itinerary on his tablet. He then gestured for me to step through the scanner. It beeped red as I did, detecting the pistol I wore beneath my jacket, but of course, as the director, I was cleared to take a weapon into the cells, and he made no protest. Instead, he unlocked the heavy metal door and waved me by.
I gestured for one of the two agents who manned this side of the cell block entrance to follow me, and she fell into step behind me without question, speeding her pace slightly after a moment to match my longer stride. Within a few moments, we were there.
Scene 31 – October 24th
Interior Cell Block, Continuous
Legion’s cell had been kept refrigerated in the hopes that it would slow her shape-shifting ability down, after the pleasant discovery that Vulcan freezing her over seemed to have suspended her. It wasn’t as cold as he had go – it was hard to match the level of cold that the man could create by absorbing heat when all you had to do it was technology – but it was still well below freezing, and I saw that she was moving sluggishly.
I sat down at the table crossing the force field that separated the inside of the cell from the outside. After a moment, Page began making her way into the seat on her side of it and sat down. I spent the long seconds it took her to do so observing the villain’s current form.
After the various chunks of demonic tree that Vulcan had frozen and dismembered were left in the cell, they had slowly congealed back into this form – a heavily-built woman wearing shades of purple,, with shaggy purple hair that hung down to around her chin. Like Loki’s hair, it was the kind of perfectly-designed unkempt that only superpowers could maintain in reality.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Director Shepard?” she finally asked.
I raised a brow. “Don’t you know, Miss Page? This isn’t the first time you’ve been captured, after all. It’s not even the first time I’ve been the one interrogating you.” A slight exaggeration of the truth that I had been observing as part of training to become a deputy director, several years before Henry had suffered his injury and stepped back. I wondered if she would call me out on it – the villain always maintained that she didn’t have a hivemind, but it was an open question whether she was lying about it or not.
She shrugged. “From my perspective, it is. No hivemind, remember?” It was certainly a consistent story, at least. “Every version of me that’s come through these cells dies. What do you think of that, Director?”
“I think that’s getting a little ahead of things,” I said calmly. “Let’s start with the basics.” The villain flapped a hand dismissively – it was almost funny to see, given her current slowed motion. “Are you Penelope Page?”
“Arguably, yes. Are you Susan Shepard?”
I ignored that. “Have you had your rights read to you, and do you understand them?”
“Once I thawed out some, yeah, and I understand them. How about you, read any good books lately?”
“What brought you to New Venice?”
“Seeing friends,” she said with a grin. “How long have you been director?”
“Who did you have contact with since arriving?”
“I spent some time with myself, and some with these really hunky guys. How’s your love life?”
I narrowed my eyes with her, realizing that her appearance was shifting. Her hair was was growing shorter and curlier, shifting into a blonde hue – her heavy built was gaining muscular definition as well as losing an inch of two of height – her clothes were darkening and becoming a full suit rather than the semi-formal waistcoat she had been wearing. In fact, she was taking on a pretty good approximation of my form. “What do you expect to accomplish with this?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“With what?” she asked. The voice wasn’t quite right though, and neither were the facial features – without the guidance of having devoured someone, she couldn’t perfectly replicate a person. She could get damned close though.
“This,” I said, gesturing to her.
She shrugged. “My job, I suppose.”
“Your job is to impersonate me?” I asked.
“Not at all. I’m just here to deliver a message.”
“Now that would be telling.” She smirked – her voice was already much closer to mine, just from those few sentences of practice. It was, in fact, a little unnerving, but I refused to let her get to me. “Let’s talk concessions.”
“I’m not finished with my questions. Like I said, you’re getting a little ahead of things.”
She shifted position a little, straightening her back and adjusting her expression to match my posture more closely. “I don’t have any intention of sitting through a boring interrogation when I could be doing what I came here for.”
“Did you come here to be captured?” I asked, not really expecting an answer. But, I was noticing, she seemed to be avoiding questions that she didn’t want to answer, which would be answer enough if it was true. Canaveral had told me, during his debriefing, that he thought she had gone down too easily – Zookeeper hadn’t thought so and neither had Vulcan, but I was inclined to trust Abe’s instincts.
“That wasn’t why I decided to come to New Venice,” she denied. “I mean really, I could be captured by the MLED anywhere.”
“Why here then?”
Legion smirked, but said nothing.
I went through some more standard questions, but she remained silent. It was clear that she was waiting for her own preferred topic to come up, and despite her denial it seemed obvious to me that she wanted to make the deal. It was the same thing that had been observed by directors across the country every time a Legion was captured – she always had some concession in mind in return for resurrecting one or more heroes. I didn’t like doing what it was obvious she wanted, but the benefits of bringing lost heroes back from the dead couldn’t be denied, so after I got through the standard interview without success I let her make her demands.
“Let’s talk deals,” I said, and she subtly perked up in exactly the same way I did when I could smell my secretary bringing me coffee, nose twitching slightly and shoulders twitching. Her mimicry of me was unnervingly good now, and I had to ask what she was hoping to do with it. Was it just to fuck with me? Was it a method of putting me on edge? If so, I had to admit to myself that it was working. I did my utmost not to show it.
“The standard? My demands for a resurrection?”
“That depends on who you’re bringing back, and what you’re demanding,” I noted. “And how many. You have quite a lot of mass with you, as you demonstrated with that demon tree.”
“Did you like it?”
“How many people are you capable of bringing back with your current mass?” If she could be negotiated up from the standard one deceased hero… I could sign off on feeding her some pig carcasses to boost her mass if necessary.
“If we’re looking at mass along, somewhere between twenty and thirty,” she said, and I blinked in surprise. “What? Trees are heavy. I’m packing a lot of mass right now.”
“I suppose so. I’m just shocked that you were able to compress it so far down,” I said. “I’m only 160 pounds, and you’ve squeezed 20 times my weight into a body my size?”
She shrugged. “I don’t fully understand how I do it either, but yes. Probably some kind of subliminally controlled pocket dimension, if you believe Doctor H-” she cut herself off, but I was already cheering in my head. “Can you just forget I said that? That’s supposed to be a secret.”
“I’m afraid not, Miss Page,” I said calmly. This could be the biggest breakthrough with Legion in years! A ‘Doctor H’? Why would a woman with Legion’s shapeshifting powers need a doctor? Was it possible that they were unstable on some level? Were her injuries stored away in some fashion, similar to how any injury Zookeeper suffered persisted each time she took that form? It seemed unlikely given that Legion’s brand of shapeshifting was unbounded, but perhaps it was similar to Loki’s illusions – to create anything quickly, he needed to build it up before use and could then call upon it as necessary. Did Legion have a similar limitation for assuming shapes quickly?
Or was I reading too much in a single comment that she might have dropped just to continue screwing with me? Probably. “Not unless you’re willing to bring back a great many people, at least.”
“Ah well. It’s not like they can do anything to me, anyway. This me, that is.” She grinned. “After all, I’m going to be dead soon. A government-sanctioned suicide. And you have no qualms about it at all, do you?”
“This arrangement saves a great many lives, Miss Page. Some of them are lives that you took.” Despite my words, I did in fact have a great many regrets about the arrangement the MLED invariably reached with captured Legions. It was official policy and not my place to go against – not while speaking to a villain, at least, although I definitely planned to bring it up at the next regional meeting – but it didn’t sit right with me. Certainly not when Legion put it like that, using my own mouth and voice – perhaps that was her point. And yes, we asked our agents and heroes to put their lives on the line every day – but we never asked them to kill themselves. They knew that they were at risk but they weren’t expected or wanted to die.
“And since ‘they’ can’t do anything to you, as you say, why don’t you tell me who they are?” I didn’t expect her to tell me, but it was worth a shot.
Legion shook her head. “I’ve said too much already, and I have loyalty. No, it’ll still be just one person.” She smiled a little ruefully. “I don’t have the option to bring back more anyway – I only have the pattern for one.”
“What do you mean?”
“We can only use a pattern once – no making multiple perfect copies of a thing. People are no different. And patterns don’t automatically transfer when we create additional copies of ourselves, so…” she shrugged. “I’ve only got one person with me.”
“Hm.” This was a wrinkled I hadn’t known about, and I would have to add it to her file – assuming it was true, anyway, and not a falsehood to guarantee the person she would resurrect. “I may or may not be able to grant concessions for them, depending on who it is.”
“Ventus,” she told me – a hero who commanded the winds, he had died to a Legion three years ago, if I remembered right. Never a top player in the hero field, but a good man. And he had been a friend of Canaveral’s, who would surely be pleased to have him back.
“And what do you want in return?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing much…”