First a quick note: I’ve been struggling with what to call this book for a while now. And yes, I still think of it as a comic book. Anyway, it finally occurred to me that I’m getting too wrapped up in the concept of this being a team book that’s named after The Team. That is totally unnecessary.
I am therefore changing the name from E.F.D., which was terrible, to Centurion Six, which I think is both a stronger name and far more indicative of what the thing actually is. I also created a Centurion Six tag, which will allow you to read the story from the beginning.
So, without further ado…
Our Story So Far:
Captains Blaine “Centurion Six” Winters and Jacob “Zulu” Mbeke have been called out by the NYPD to help investigate what appears to be a routine but grisly gang-related multiple homicide in the south Bronx. Their expertise is needed because they are ultra-human members of the New York State National Guard’s Enhanced Forced Division (EFD), and the victims in the case were skrags, i.e. mundane humans attempting to gain ultra-human abilities through illegal drug and mutational gene therapies.
Unfortunately for our heroes, however, their presence makes the local cops almost as nervous as do the bodies of the dead skrags.
Issue #1, Part 2
Rebecca lay in bed with her sheets and blanket pulled carefully over her. She was fully dressed. Her makeup was, she hoped, artfully applied.
Her phone beeped softly. “Where the Hell are you?” it asked.
Rebecca whispered softly into the screen. “I had to wait ‘til the guard dogs fell to sleep. I’ll be there in a minute.” She hit the SEND button, and the message sped off.
She pulled the sheet and the blanket away and stood up, checked herself in the mirror. Neither the pink top nor the skirt looked rumpled, but she wondered again if maybe the top wasn’t a bit much. It showed a lot of skin, and it was tight. Her nipples stood out sharply against the fabric.
Maybe I should wear a bra? she thought. Then, Fuck it. This is New York. I want people to see me.
Rebecca stood for a moment and listened, first with her ears and then with her mind. Nothing, neither sound nor stray thought. She grabbed the heels she’d stolen from Shelby and turned, opening the door to her patio slowly. The lights of the City blazed below; traffic sounds called out an invitation. She slid into the heels and stepped out onto her balcony. At this height, the wind was a caress, cool and energetic. Possibility hung in the air. She drew a breath and enjoyed the moment.
When she closed her door, though, she heard the lock click shut.
“Dammit!” She’d forgotten to block the auto-lock. Sneaking out this way might be easy, but getting back in was going to be a serious pain in the ass. She shook her head. “This had better be worth it.”
In the end, though, she couldn’t make herself worry. The night was young, and so was she. She closed her eyes and sighed, feeling the breeze and the pulse of the City. Her Power came up, and she was aware that she was glowing. Her balcony fell away, and she was out, hanging over Manhattan like a goddess.
All hail Rebecca Rodriguez, the Queen of New York City.
* * *
“So what’d’you think, Zee?”
Blaine held the flashlight, let it play over the bodies. One in particular caught his attention. Like the others, it had been slashed open. But on this one several of the ribs were snapped, their ends protruding outward from the upper abdomen. And there, where the body’s meat had been tougher to cut through, Blaine could see four individual claw marks leading to the general ruin of the thing’s lower half. The sight made him shiver, and not just because of the gore.
“It looks like a drug lab.” Zulu shrugged. “A bunch of dumbass skrags couldn’t handle their high. The mutation itself was probably unstable, and God knows what all they mixed with the mutagen. It’s the usual story.”
“Yeah?” Blaine let the light play over the body with the snapped ribs. “See anything else?”
“Like what? Some skrag grew claws. Nothing weird about that. Nothing at all.”
“The attacker made this wound with four claws—all four fingers on his right hand. And he didn’t just rip this guy up, he actually tore through the bone.” Blaine looked at Zulu. “You seen a lot of skrags who could tear through bone before?”
“So… what? You’re thinking this was Jason now?”
“I don’t know what to think. But it’s possible. Last I heard, he was knocking over convenience stores down in Jersey.”
The cop looked annoyed. “You two mind tellin’ me what you’re talkin’ about?”
“Yeah. The boss thinks this might’ve been the work of a friend of his. A guy who washed out of the E.F.D. back in the day.” Zulu looked meaningfully at Blaine. “But he’d just being paranoid because he got promoted to Team Leader.
“Listen, Blaine, with all due respect, this was a skrag meth lab. These guys get hopped up, who knows what they’re capable of? There is no reason to suspect that Jason King was anywhere near this.”
“I hope you’re right,” Blaine said. Then: “Mainframe? Begin recording.”
The computer answered through the link woven into Blaine’s uniform blouse. MAINFRAME ONLINE. RECORDING.
“Take atmospheric samples. Can you determine what these guys were processing?”
ANALYZING. PLEASE STAND BY.
The filters in Blaine’s uniform inhaled inaudibly. A mass of complex data was transferred wirelessly back to Blaine’s office, and somewhere, a very large computer began doing calculations.
“If this comes back as crack cocaine or crystal-meth, can we please agree that you are over-reacting?” Zulu asked.
ANALYSIS COMPLETE. SUBSTANCE IS AMPHETAMINE METHYL-PHENCYCLIDINE.
And just like that, the skeptical look on Zulu’s face fell away. “Oh shit…”
WARNING. SUBSTANCE IS A CLASS 1 REPORTABLE. INITIATING AUTO-REPORTING PROCEDURES.
The cop looked confused. “What the Hell does that mean?”
Blaine wasn’t surprised, but he couldn’t have explained exactly why not. “A.M.P. is a Chinese Battle Drug, sergeant. Turns regular infantry conscripts into steely-eyed berserkers. And it’s not that hard to make, but you need a stabilizing protein that, quite frankly, I can’t believe even well-connected gangbangers would be able to lay hands on. Not in this neighborhood, anyway.” He looked at Zulu. “You still think I’m over-reacting, Zee?”
WARNING. ANOMALOUS PROXIMITY READINGS DETECTED. EVASIVE ACTIONS RECOMMENDED.
Blaine looked around, but of course, there was nothing to see. He heard the metallic whine of a capacitor charging.
And then the world blew up.