Scene 36 – October 26th
Interior Cell Block, Afternoon
“Alright, Legion,” I said as I entered her cell and leaned against the wall, eying her through the force field. “You’ve had your chat with the Kaufmans.” And I couldn’t help but wonder what she had said – wanting to talk with the two of them was no doubt why she had been at Quinn’s house the night she was first sighted. But I hadn’t been privy to the contents of the conversations, and Susan had declined to tell me. They were of a personal nature, and if Quinn or David decided to tell me on their own then that was one thing, but she wouldn’t do it herself. As a result of my curiosity, I was a little annoyed when I said, “Now give me my best friend back.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure he’s still your friend? It’s been years, after all.”
“Only three,” I said, frowning at the villain. “That’s not so long, really.”
“And what if he doesn’t want to see you anymore?”
“What are you saying, Legion? Why wouldn’t he want to see me?”
“Oh, I thought you knew why I had to take him,” Legion said. “I suppose I should warn you. A moment…” She raised a hand and produced a small clicked from nowhere. It clicked, and the commlink in my ear suddenly went dead. Sparks popped from the cameras in the corners of the cell – they had clearly been ruined as well. The force field that separated us shut down too – what the hell was that thing?
I crouched into a fighting stance, ready for an escape attempt – this was, after all, why I was here to supervise her transformation – and tested the door behind me experimentally. If it was an escape, the tech she had managed to sneak in would probably have popped its lock, but I discovered that it was stuck closed. On the other side of the door I could hear a commotion – the cameras’ destruction had obviously been noticed, and agents were already trying to get into the cell to give me back up.
Legion grinned, suddenly moving at full speed rather than the slow pace she had apparently only been pretending was force on her. “Snuck it in by hiding it inside a bone. Your scanners can’t see through my bones when I’m this dense – I could have anything in here.” She laughed. “In this case, however, you have nothing to fear. Instead, I think you have a decision to make. You see, the reason I took Ventus was that he had discovered something which I think you’ll find unfortunate.”
My eyes narrowed. What could Will have discovered that… “Are you saying he knew about Ambrosia?” I asked, my heart sinking.
“Got it in one,” she said approvingly. “Yes, Ventus discovered the company after capturing a client back in Vegas.” The two of us had both grown up in Las Vegas, and spent the first two years of our careers as heroes there. Then I had been transferred to New Venice to lead the team after the previous team leader, the Warden, retired – Ventus, meanwhile, had remained. “At first he thought we only sold powers to villains, but after his investigation was quashed by Nanoblade, he began to realize the truth.”
“Wait, hold on. Are you saying that Nanoblade got his powers from you?” Nanoblade was one of the biggest heroes out there, and had been a mentor to Ventus and I both.
“Oh yes. You didn’t think we only sold magic, did you? We wouldn’t get very far like that – Middleman can’t duplicate powers, after all. But many cosmic powers can be granted repeatedly.”
“I… I never really thought about it, beyond myself,” I quietly admitted. “I tried not to think about it that much.”
She nodded. “Probably for the best. The point, however, is that Ventus didn’t stop his investigation, he just had to do it in secret. He was good at it, too, and turned up a great deal of information. Including that you purchased your powers from us, Abraham Armstrong.” Legion shrugged. “So, the company sent me to deal with him. I can bring him back, of course, but if he still plans to go public with all of this another me will just take him out again.”
“And what the hell do you want me to do about this?” I asked.
“There are two possibilities here,” she said. “Either you can convince him to remain quiet – you are his best friend, after all – or this ‘escape attempt’ goes badly, and you manage to destroy my brain. Either way, I’ll be gone and your secret will be safe.”
“Why are you putting this decision on me,” I growled. “You can’t ask me to choose that! He was my best friend!”
“I ask you to make this decision because you are his best friend,” she countered.
“Will this at least count as my third favor?” I asked without much hope.
Legion shook her head. “Oh no. I don’t owe you anything, whatever that me may have thought. This affects you, and you need to make the choice regardless.”
I glanced at the doorway behind me. It seemed to be taking a while for them to get through… “Can I talk to him before you make the change final?”
She nodded. “Certainly.” The shapeshifter held up her hand again and it began to bulge, shaping itself into a head. A strong jawline, heavily tanned skin, black hair that would have hung down to his shoulders if she had bothered to give him any… he had more stress lines than the last time I had seen him, but when his grass-green eyes opened and locked on mine, I knew that it could be none other than my best friend, William Wordsworth.
Scene 37 – October 26
Interior Cell Block, Continuous
It took a moment before I found my voice again, then I said, “Will…”
“Canaveral,” he said, coolly. That was a bad sign – he usually called me Abe or Navi.
“I… I hear that you’ve learned some things,” I tried, “that… that don’t sound very good, from a certain perspective.”
“You could say that,” he agreed, still in that same unaffected, emotionless voice.
“I…” I sighed. “I can’t lie to you, Will. The Ambrosia Company is… it’s not exactly a morally-upright institution.”
“That’s a bit of an understatement,” Legion commented. “Publicly, perhaps, but I think we all know that the face we put on in public isn’t necessarily the truth.”
I glared at her. “You’re not helping,” I snapped. “And why the hell do you work for them, if you know how bad they are?”
She sighed. “Loyalty, I’m afraid. They saved my life.”
“I thought that I saved your life.”
“It’s arguable, and like I said I disagree with the me who helped you.” She shrugged. “Besides, if they had a different enforcer they would probably be even worse than me. At least I don’t kill anyone – anyone other than myself, anyway.”
I stared at her, then pointed at Will’s head where it emerged from her arm.
“Does he look dead to you?” Legion asked. “The man isn’t even dead legally, just missing-in-action.”
“Get to the point,” Will groaned. “Existing as a disembodied head isn’t exactly comfortable, you know.”
“Right.” I shook myself, trying to refocus. “Will, Ambrosia does a lot of bad things, yes, but… they do good, too. I would never have become a hero if not for them.”
“There wouldn’t be so many villains if not for them, either,” he retorted. “Not to mention that the brawn that they distribute throughout the country.”
I glanced at Legion. “I didn’t know they were involved in brawn distribution – is that true?”
“Maybe?” She gave a noncommittal shrug. “Not my department. I know there’s some level of involvement but I don’t know the details of it.” There came a loud thud at the door, and I glanced over my shoulder to double check that it was still holding. “Better hurry up,” the villain added.
I sighed. “Look, Will, I’ll be straight with you-”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “Since when have you been straight? Especially with me.”
I grinned at him for a moment, then remembered the situation we were in and cleared my throat. “You’re up for resurrection – Legion is willing to bring you back. But only if you agree to keep quiet about Ambrosia.”
He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know if I can agree to that. I mean, think about what they’ve done!”
“They’ve granted powers to heroes too!” I protested.
“I already said that you and Nanoblade doesn’t make up for all the villains!”
“You think it’s just the two of them?” Legion asked, then laughed. “Oh, Ventus, you have no idea. Canaveral isn’t the only hero to buy his powers – he isn’t even the only one in the New Champions!”
I hadn’t known anyone else in the Champions had gotten their powers from Ambrosia, but decided to think about that later. “And they’ve taken villains off the playing field, too,” I added. “My power was taken away from a Russian villain in order for me to get it.”
“So you’re saying that they can do more than bribe people with the possibility of extra powers, they can also threaten to take them away?” Ventus asked. “That just makes them even scarier.”
“We tried to bribe him to stay quiet first,” Legion told me. “It didn’t work.”
I sighed. “Will, you’re going to die if you don’t stay quiet. And it’ll be permanent this time – no way to come back. I don’t want you gone forever!”
“I’m already dead,” he said, a trace of pain in his eyes – I doubt I could have seen it if I didn’t know the man so well. “I don’t care if Legion thinks she doesn’t kill – this isn’t a life.”
She sighed. “You have the right to your opinion,” the villain said, “but the fact that you have one to express means you’re alive. But… yes, not for long.”
I closed me eyes and tried to come to terms with what I was about to do. Will had been my best friend from childhood. He had been my first crush, my first boyfriend, my first kiss. My first partner – we had been closer than brothers. And now… could I really do this to him?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Will said. “It’s not going to work. You can’t make her bring me back if she doesn’t want to.”
I hadn’t been thinking about that, and the fact that I wasn’t just made me feel worse. Had I really changed so much that Will was wrong about me? “I’m so sorry, Will,” I said, my voice breaking as I tried to hold back tears. “But I don’t have a choice.”
“What do you mean, Navi?” Will asked.
I turned away before opening my eyes again – I couldn’t look. “Make the escape attempt, Legion,” I said. “Where’s your brain?”
“I have it in my pelvis right now,” she told me.
I could hear the understanding in Will’s voice as he realized what was about to happen. “Fuck you, Abe,” he said. “Fuck you very…”
Then he was gone, and Legion was lashing out at the walls, the ceiling… making it look like a great battle had occurred. I played my part too, bouncing around her strikes to build up a little sweat to make it realistic. After a few seconds, she broke through the door to the cell, revealing a crowd of agents, several of whom had been attempting to break through themselves. I broke off a leg of the table, launched it through Legion’s midsection, and she collapsed and took my best friend with her.