It was Michigan Jack and his gang.
Normally, D1 doesn't send us out on things like that — men with guns — but Jack had blown himself up trying to get into the vault at the Central Bank and his men were panicked and spraying most of downtown with bullets in their attempt to flee. There were dozens of casualties, and about to be hundreds, and the police were outgunned. So.
Rapture was aloft, chasing a helicopter that had been an alternate escape plan. I was on the ground, running down gunmen. I almost had them all…
I came around the corner doing about eighty. The henchman was half a block away, firing at people indiscriminately. Two seconds later I'd sent him flying into the side of a brick building, a broken ragdoll, but in that two seconds he'd gunned down a group of fleeing bystanders.
When I turned around, there were about twelve or thirteen civilians on the street, bleeding out onto the asphalt. Except that one of them got up — big, burly guy, holes through his clothes but not a scratch on him — looked at me for a second and then ran away.
I didn't chase him; there were people to try to save. Later I found three bullets, compressed as if they'd struck something armored, laying where he'd fallen.
D1 is good with cameras, and there are cameras aplenty downtown. As a self-aware supercomputer he's got access to every database you can think of, and several you're not supposed to know about besides. Before long, we had a name and a face and a credit history and a curriculum vitae for my strangely unwounded victim of Michigan Jack's last big score.
We tracked him to a laundromat. Rapture has very little patience for recruitment, but she came along. Maybe she thought he was cute, I don't know. Seeing her in civilian clothes was a mind-fuck. People are never who you think they are, inside, not really. She pretended to be inordinately interested in the change machine.
He was washing his whites. I know he'd gotten a good look at me on the street that day, and I don't wear a mask anymore, not since Mandy and I moved from the apartment onto the Dreamland campus: no secret identity to protect. I walked up to him, saw the look of nervous recognition in his eyes, and said, "I just want to talk."
He ran for the back door. I took the opportunity to pick his bullet-holed tee shirt out of the wash, still wet, before I went after him. It wasn't like he was going to outrun me. Rapture just rolled her eyes.
He'd gone straight through the security door in back, left a man-shaped hole. I caught up to him halfway down the alley, the shirt in my hands, my fingers waggling through the holes. "Would you like to explain why you're not dead?"
He stopped short, fell down trying to change directions in a hurry. I don't blame him: when I do my thing it's like a streak blows by you and then someone magically appears at the end of the streak. On his ass and elbows, he said, "Just leave me alone, man, I don't want any trouble."
"No trouble." I shrugged. "We're the good guys. If you want left alone, we'll leave you alone. But if we found you, the bad guys can too. And they won't leave you alone. You're a threat."
"I'm not a threat to anybody." He got up. "Let me past."
I got out "Listen, all I want to—" before he drew back to take a swing. I have to admit something now: It isn't just my arms and legs that are fast, I've got super-fast reflexes as well. Otherwise I'd get a few seconds into a sprint and run into something like a tree or building or something else I hadn't seen in time. I can see a threat and move out of its way, I do it all the time in combat. Rapture calls it 'phase–stepping'. Apparently that's a Dungeons and Dragons reference. So I could have dodged the punch. I chose not to; I wanted to know.
He's strong. That seems really obvious to you reading this, of course, but at the time he was a mystery. I ended up skidding across the alleyway pavement and into the street. It would have taken a normal person's head off.
I know when Rapture's doing her thing. There's a hum. When I came to I followed the sound down around the corner and found her, floating in the air, glowing like a lightbulb, holding him hanging by his collar with an unseen spectral hand. "Don't kill him," I croaked.
We took him back to Dreamland Headquarters before too much of a crowd assembled. Mandy clucked over the growing bruise on my cheek. That's never happened before. The bruise, I mean. My neck was sore for a week.
For now he was a rat in a cage. We escorted him in to be interviewed by Dreamland One. He didn't try anything; he wasn't afraid of me, but he was afraid of Rapture. I don't blame him.
D1 kicked us out of the interview, of course. I remember my entrance interview, and that's all I'm going to say.
When he came out he understood, I think. His eyes had stopped darting from side to side, looking for threats or opportunities. He looked at me, paused for a minute, and then said, "There's stuff I need, at home."
"You can take a car from the pool, Otto has the keys. He'll give you a song and dance about insurance and what happens if you scratch the paint, but just ignore him. We go through cars like normal people go through light bulbs."
"Who'll be following me?"
"Nobody. We're kind of busy around here. There isn't even a tracking bug in the car." It was a good faith gesture. Let him go; if he comes back, he's in. The car we can afford to lose.
He calls himself Massive now. He's part of B team, with me and Rapture and the others. He even apologized for punching me, eventually. I don't know for sure that he and Rapture are doing it, but they were flirty, and then they were awkward, and now they stand too close together during briefings.
That's fine. Mandy thinks it's good for Rapture, that it might give her some tether to normalcy that was worryingly lacking before. I just don't want to be around when they fight.
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