Chapter – XXXI
“Shit! Heroes!” Finder said, his blazing eye staring out of the store windows. That damn kid just had to ring the silent alarm before Keeper was able to lock them both down. He knew the boss sent them after the kid because his senses are good, but he must have heard them running through the plan before they went in the store.
Even so, they should have been able to get away with the kid before the cops showed up The boss specifically said that the cops’ response time was at least 15 minutes in this part of town. They must have been in the neighborhood, probably already on their way to the store to get some doughnuts or something.
Turning to look at the back door, he saw a pair of energy signatures approaching from an alley. “Two more heading toward the back. Come on Keeper, let’s get back to the Boss. Knucks, you keep them busy. We’ll be back kid” Finder let that last bit hang in the air, it was always good to leave them intimidated. They’d be less likely to cooperate with the cops or heroes if they knew they weren’t safe. Then the two criminal supers ran out of the back, gone just before Menagerie and Arachne turned the corner to see them flee.
“Checkmate, team two is in position.” Arachne said, as she and Menagerie crouched against the back wall of the convenience store.
“Acknowledged. Cold Fusion and Ani-Man have the situation outside in hand, and Ricochet has the officers secured. You’re clear to move in, ma’am.”
Menagerie didn’t even want to know from where Arachne produced the three small lumps of plastic explosive she placed on the hinges and lock of the door. A handful of seconds after she placed a trio of breath mint sized detonators in the lumps, small explosions filled the alley, and the door fell to the ground. Menagerie, now wearing the armor of an armadillo over the hide of a rhinoceros with the musculature of a gorilla, burst through the open door. Expecting three foes inside the convenience store, he was surprised, but didn’t slow when only one confronted him. The gang member inside had massive hands, with metallic studs emerging from the knuckles. As Menagerie charged, he noted rings of energy surging down his arms and concentrating on the studs on his knuckles. The thug assumed a boxing stance and nimbly danced around a powerful swing from one massive arm, and replied with a quick jab. Menagerie felt muscles spasm as the sparking blow landed, but was otherwise unharmed. Quickly glancing out the front window he saw what could only be a creation of Ani-Man’s grab a thug outside.
Taking that as tacit permission to take the kid gloves off, he quickly visualized another pair of animals. Reaching further into his genetic library, his arms transformed into the striking tentacles of the Humboldt squid, lined with the electrocytes of an electric eel.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a joy buzzer eh?” He said “Let’s see how you like it.”
And then he struck.
His tentacles flashing out in less than the blink of an eye. One wrapped around his opponent’s waist, the other clapped onto his cheek, an instant later releasing their charge. The gang member went rigid for a second then limp in his arms.
“This is Menagerie” he said into his comm “all clear inside. Only one threat present and he is neutralized and the hostages are secured.”
Sauntering in through what used to be the back door, one leg crossing the other in a sinuous motion, Arachne went looked at the unconscious thug now laying on the floor. “You couldn’t have kept him conscious?” She said “He’s useless like this. At least for now.”
“He’ll be fine, you can chat with him when he wakes up. Besides, Ani-Man has one captive and alert outside.”
“Goodie.” She said. Turning to the two former hostages behind the counter she said. “Are you two okay? Can you tell me what happened?”
“We… We’re fine,” the younger of the two said. “They were here for me…” His eyes were huge as the reality of what they had just endured and witnessed sunk in. “He said that his boss was recruiting for an army to take over this city, said my abilities made me special… I can’t fight though! My senses are good but that’s it!”
“They? How many, besides our friend over there, came after you?” Arachne asked, keeping her voice soft to soothe the rattled teenager.
“Two.” he said “There were two more. They called themselves Finder and Keeper. They left just before you two came in.”
“Good, that’s good. Do you remember anything about them? Anything you can tell us, even if it doesn’t seem like much, could help us catch them.”
“Umm… Finder seemed like he was the one in charge. He had this weird red eye robot eye. He knew I was a super, even though I don’t look any different or really do anything. And he said something about you guys coming. It was like he could see you through the wall. He also said that he used to be like me, but their boss gave them upgrades. The other one didn’t say anything, he just kinda stood there looking scary. It’s not much… I was just so scared. I don’t know what they wanted from me. I can’t fight any better than a normal human.”
“That’s fine, sweetie.” Arachne said “You did great. You’re both really brave. And don’t sell yourself short. You are stronger than you think you are. Even if your power doesn’t make you a strong fighter, if you know more than the other guy, you have an advantage.”
Backing away from the shaking teenager, Arachne glanced outside and said “Speaking of knowledge, I’m going to go have a nice little chat with one of our friends outside and see what he has to say for himself.”
Heading outside she went over to the gang member still trapped in the hand of the former car. As she approached, he greeted her with a variety of choice phrases about her sex and suggestions about how they could spend the next few hours. As it so happened, she had a ideas of her own. “Oh, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“Ani-Man, why don’t you head inside and keep the folks inside company. They were too shaken up to tell me anything.” That last part was a lie, but it could be a useful one. Then, looking into the trapped thug’s eyes she said “I’m going to spend a little private time with our friend here, and he is going to tell me everything we want to know”
Ani-Man simply arched an eyebrow at his long-time friend before he nodded turned to go into the convenience store. He knew what Arachne was about to do would disqualify the captured gang member as a witness in any sort of trial. But he also knew that they were after bigger fish.
The tech and enhancements that these thugs had pointed to Trans-Human being somehow involved. Gangs that actively recruited supers had become so common that every active hero was intensely familiar with them. And while the enhancers weren’t unheard of, using high-tech implants to augment individual powers was a new one. It fit what they knew of Trans-Human’s M.O., and from Ani-Man’s limited understanding, the skill of the work shown needed a super-genius to pull off. So getting valuable intel to let them know what Trans-Human’s next move might be, what he could be planning, was worth the loss of a potential witness.
So he just nodded as Arachne winked at him and walked past him. As she approached the trapped gang member, he went to spit at Arachne, but something stopped him. Maybe it was the narrowing of her eyes, or the certainty with which she spoke, but a shiver of fear started to creep down his spine.
Instead he tried some bravado on the hot bitch looking at him critically. “The fuck I am, bitch. But maybe you come over here and you can tell me how you want me to give it to you.”
Rather than reply, Arachne just smiled thinly and pressed her hands together. After a slight pause, she slowly drew them apart, keeping her fingertips touching. When her fingers finally parted, a fine golden thread was held between them.
Holding the shining, almost glowing, thread between her thumbs and forefingers, she slowly approached the prisoner “Now then, where to start?”