|Sketch in My Notebook|
Against them stand Army Lieutenant Blaine Winters, the new Centurion of the N.Y. State National Guard's Enhanced Forces Division (EFD), and FBI Agent Tiffany Trujillo, once the superhero Titania. These two went with a SWAT team to confront the Siberian Tiger and Gun Girl Gracie at a bank heist in Brooklyn, but they got their asses kicked. Tiffany wound up in the hospital, a bunch of SWAT officers died, and Blaine would have died too if not for the prodigious gifts associated with his extraordinary genetic heritage.
Now Blaine is left to carry on the investigation by himself, but it feels like he's chasing ghosts...
The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 13: Chasing Ghosts (Part 1)
There were still a lot of police cars parked at the crime scene. Blaine stopped his bike just beyond the perimeter and looked around, trying to figure out where to park. Unfortunately, the intersection was both awkward and busy. Queensborough Road came into Tremont at an oblique angle, continually snarling traffic in a way that was compounded by the presence of a major mass transit station. The subway superstructure loomed above the area like a green steel roof, and there were multiple bus stops spread across the six corners of the three-way intersection. There was also plenty of foot traffic.
Fuck it, Blaine thought. A moment’s indecision brought an angry honk from one of drivers behind him, but then Blaine gunned his bike’s engine hard enough to bring his front wheel up off the ground. A uniformed officer turned at the sound just as he bounced up onto the sidewalk and kicked down the kickstand.
“Hey!” the officer yelled. “You can’t park that here!”
“Well, where should I park?” Blaine yelled back. He knew it wasn’t the right tone of voice for the situation, but he still felt rattled from seeing Tiffany Trujillo lying unconscious in a hospital bed, and besides, driving a motorcycle from Manhattan to the very heart of the Bronx wasn’t exactly relaxing. “You guys have blocked off half the road.”
This was true enough. Queensborough was a snarl with one lane closed despite the fact that a uniformed officer stood in the middle of the street trying vainly to control the flow of cars.
The police officer didn’t seem to care. “You want me to give you a ticket?” he asked hotly. “I’ll impound that piece of shit bike of yours, and—”
“Easy, officer.” Blaine looked over and saw Special Agent Casey Walcott coming towards them. “Lieutenant Winters is with me.”
“Is that who this is?” The officer threw up his hands and spun in obvious disgust. “Man, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Blaine stood helplessly as the officer walked away shaking his head.
“Come on,” Walcott said. He gave Blaine the once over. “Civilian clothes, huh? Good choice. No need to attract attention.”
Blaine shrugged, unsure what to say. He’d chosen a dark blue polo shirt and khakis instead of his uniform and covered the outfit with a brown leather bomber jacket. “I, uh… Well, it seemed like the right thing, sir. Didn’t think I needed to remind these guys that they just lost a bunch of their own due to the E.F.D.’s incompetence.”
Walcott gave him a hard look. “You’re all we’ve got, kid. Just do better next time, alright?”
Ashamed, Blaine had to force himself to meet Walcott’s eyes. “I will, sir.”
“Good. Come on.”
Agent Walcott led the way towards a line of crime scene tape that marked the perimeter of the bank building. As before, there were a handful of blue-jacketed FBI officers scurrying around outside the tape, taking samples and pictures. There was also an ambulance parked up on the sidewalk off to one side where Blaine could see a handful of uniformed SWAT officers taking oxygen from a set of bottle-fed masks alongside a handful of civilians. The officers looked dazed but basically okay while the civilians were uniformly traumatized. Even from twenty feet away, Blaine could see blotchy red spots on the skin around the victims’ eyes and quick, twitchy reflexes like those that characterized the recent victims of violent crime. More victims—a pair of dark-skinned teenagers—lay unconscious on a stretcher. Blaine saw blood, but beyond that, he didn’t know what to make of any of it beyond a vague feeling that he could have done more to protect these poor people.
“Sir, do we know what happened?”
Walcott shook his head. “We think it was Dr. Necropolis.”
“You think?” Blaine asked incredulously.
“Hey! Why do you think I called you down here?” Walcott fired back. “The scene’s a fucking mess, kid. There was some kind of electromagnetic pulse in there, and between that and whatever the Hell was in that gas the doc threw, the closed circuit TV cameras are all shot to shit. We were hoping that maybe you or Tiffany could shed some light on some of this for us. But if you’ve got someplace else you need to be…”
“Agent Trujillo is still bedridden, sir,” Blaine said coolly.
“Well, then, it’s like I said before. You’re all we got, kid. You ready for this, or do you want to play twenty questions some more?”
Blaine shook his head, tried to wrap his mind around what he’d just heard. “Just tell me what happened,” he said at last.
“Come look at the scene first.”
Blaine followed Agent Walcott into the bank building.
The inside was worse by far than the outside had been. The acrid stench of teargas hung thick in the air alongside something caustic. Blaine didn’t know what to make of it, but it made his throat itch, and after a moment, he saw that Agent Walcott had put a handkerchief over his face and stumbled further into the room. Looking around, Blaine saw that there were only a couple of uniformed techs in the building but that both were wearing full-body protective suits. What the Hell? He looked further, noted thick patches of blood staining the bank’s grey utilitarian carpeting along with a chalked outline indicating that a body had been found. He then saw a bunch of bullet holes, some in the ceiling and some scattered around the rest of the room.
Walcott caught him staring. “You think this is bad, come check out the back.”
Blaine followed, and the stench of teargas got markedly worse. He looked around, saw where a second canister lay further back in the building, and couldn’t help but blanch. He knew the teargas wouldn’t hurt him, but it made his eyes water, and he could only imagine what it was doing to a mundie like Walcott. Somehow Walcott toughed it out and went deeper into the building, coming at last to a spot beside the vault. He coughed before pointing to a neat two-foot hole in the wall opposite the vault. Somehow that hole had been blasted through the brick, but there was no sign of any soot or fire-damage and no explosive residue. The hole led out of the bank building itself and into a tenement building.
“You ever seen anything like this?” Walcott asked. He coughed again and then rubbed his eyes before giving Blaine a hard look. “We didn’t even get back here for ten full minutes after the SWAT guys started trying to breach their way into building. Do you know why? Because the teargas at the front had been mixed with some shit that ate through the SWAT team’s gas masks! Doc threw it at the hostages on his way out the building—and they panicked, of course—going right into the team as they tried to breach. Had to take a couple of them to the hospital. And that’s the only reason we even suspect that this was Dr. Necropolis. Because who else would do something like that? Use not just tear gas but tear gas laced with some kind of acid? On civilians? It’s got to be Necropolis. Who else could it be?”
Walcott coughed, and Blaine saw that there were now tears streaming freely from his eyes. “Dammit,” he said, and then turned and ran towards the front of the building.
Blaine had no choice but to follow.
Once outside, Blaine took a deep, delicious breath of air. He noticed that his eyes were watering, though not nearly to the extent that Agent Walcott’s were. Blaine’s powers protected him, of course, but Casey Walcott had only a handkerchief and his own strength of constitution. Walcott wheezed, and his face started getting red, almost like he’d been out in the sun. He coughed again and doubled over, trying to recover his breath. Mucus streamed freely from his mouth and nose. The man looked miserable, but there was nothing that Blaine could for him. He felt helpless, though the whole scene had done little more than discomfort him personally.
Blaine looked around while Walcott recovered and saw the SWAT team and the other victims of the robbery. He wondered for a moment what, if anything, he could have done differently.
Not a lot, he realized.
He remembered the look on his mother’s face when she’d talked about Necropolis and remembered, too, the look on Agent Walcott’s face when he’d mentioned that the police hadn’t even realized who they were dealing with until it was much, much too late.
I’m a soldier, he thought. I’m not trained for this. I’m out of my depth.
Finally, Walcott stood up. He wiped his face and mouth with his handkerchief and then threw it into a nearby trashcan. “Well?” he asked at last. He was wheezing and uncomfortable, but he was clearly too pissed off to worry about that. “What do you think?”
Blaine blinked. Here was Special Agent Casey Walcott, senior investigator for the New York branch of the FBI, asking a twenty-three year old kid for his opinion on a major crime scene. Involving Dr. Necropolis, no less. Because the kid was an ultra-human, the only one around who could handle the teargas and not come away damned-near incapacitated. He was the only one who could go up against Necropolis one-on-one and hope to walk away unharmed. Blaine swallowed hard. Beside him, uniformed police officers who’d heard the question stopped and turned, evidently wondering what Blaine had to say. The look of hope in their eyes was unmistakable. If that wasn’t enough, Blaine could see network TV vans pulling up across the street, signaling the arrival of news crews.
The police were looking to Blaine and so too were the FBI. Soon, the people of the City of New York would be as well.
Dear God, he thought, it’s really true. I am the new Centurion. For the first time in his life, he realized what that meant. What it really meant. All these people, they think I can save them. Either they really believe it, or they’ve got no choice but to hope that it’s true.
I’m the only hope they’ve got.
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I write these stories for a few reasons. Yes, I like to write, but I also want to attract interest in this blog and in my writing in general. My first book, Sneakatara Boatman & the Priest of Loki, is out for the Kindle App and on Patreon, and the follow-up, Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto, came out yesterday (!) on Amazon. These are D&D-style fantasy adventures; they use the same WTF-style plotting that I use in all of my writing. If you like Dr. Necropolis or any of my RPG stuff, you will probably like the Sneax stuff, too. As of thise writing, Sneax is rocking a solid 4.6 stars in Amazon's reviews section. Don't take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.
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