Yeager showed up early at the public library branch he’d set up as the meeting place for one of his regular clients. Years of work in his rather rarified trade had led him to believe that libraries were the best places to meet privately, as their conference rooms were less likely than most to draw attention. The stereotypical meeting spots, restaurants and parks, were too public and busy for the kinds of discussions he normally had with his customers.
Like most supers who didn’t have that certain something required to use his super status legitimately, Yeager tried to make his way in the real world like any non-super, but his abilities just made criminal activity too damned easy. It didn’t help that he’d hit more than his fair share of bumps, potholes, traffic circles, and car wrecks in the road leading through the first twenty-odd years of his life.
Shortly after his eighteenth birthday Yeager stole a high end sports car in one of those life changing bad decisions that derails all future hopes. Yeager just wanted to try the car out for fun, and didn’t do so much as put a scratch on it. He even returned the car to its owner, and the security cameras on the rich bastard’s estate got a good look at him.
It was being too nice that ended up fucking him over, a lesson he carried forwards through the rest of his years. If he’d torched the car Yeager was certain he’d have never been caught.
Even though the courts were lenient, a wide variety of doors were closed from that moment on.
Once Yeager had hit rock bottom, he pulled all the cash out of an ATM, and never looked back. Of course, with no real experience in criminal activities, he was caught after only a few years of what he assumed were clever acts of thievery. A hero called Abstract tracked him, and took him down with ease. Yeager had learned the hard way what a ‘subtlety hero’ was as an unfortunate introduction to law enforcement for supers.
After a stint in one of the super containment facilities, which amounted to a few years of solitary confinement that nearly broke his sanity, Yeager tried to find his way back into legitimate employment. However, his attempts to put his criminal past behind him failed. Even after he managed to scrimp and save and struggle to get a degree in electromechanical engineering, Yeager still couldn’t find a job. Potential employers kept saying that he: “Wasn’t a good fit.”
Engineering work seemed like a perfectly natural fit to Yeager, but he ended up struggling to stay legal by working a series of humiliating menial jobs; discovering along the way that supers would always get passed over for opportunities and promotions in the world of normal human employment. There was a subtle form of discrimination that punished people who had the ‘good fortune’ to be super, and he would never get an extra leg up even when he needed it.
Yeager finally gave in when someone approached him to do something that was of dubious legality; setting up a security system for what he was sure was a drug processing lab. Then he helped a gang of criminal supers set up a meeting house that was off the grid enough to avoid attention. He drifted like this from job to job, each time doing something that was just a little bit more over the line of until he was working as an assistant for The Consultancy.
The Consultancy was a group of criminal tech geniuses. It was amazing how similar their stories were to his; especially considering just how much more useful their powers were. Their tech genius abilities let them skip ahead of what was possible for normal engineers and scientists, but all the members of The Consultancy were too old to benefit from when their abilities were recognized as making them super. Each had a history of problems that, on top of an inability to build devices that could be replicated by human technology, drove them to lives of crime.
As one of them put it: “It was make FAA banned flight suits at a million a pop, or flip burgers.”
Like most of the good things in Yeager’s life, The Consultancy didn’t last. He barely managed to escape when the pawn shop that The Consultancy worked out of was raided by a collection of heroes. Despite how Yeager’s crew avoided overt entanglements with the law, the subtlety heroes wrecked his life again. The heroes managed to follow the money back to them after some of their devices were used to kill a hero during a robbery.
Unlike many criminal supers, Yeager was neither stupid, nor in denial about what he was. He was a criminal, and approached his new career with the same methodical precision that he approached his engineering work. Unlike his bosses, Yeager had to work at the ‘human’ level of technology, and for some reason it made him a little more cautious than them. He’d had an escape plan set up and ready to go. None of the supers who’d raided The Consultancy were prepared for Yeager’s power, and he’d made his escape with relative ease thanks to having a lot more practice with it than the first time he was caught.
From that day onwards Yeager never took work from supers, and he never took work that involved any direct interaction with supers. Instead, he drifted through the fraternity of human organized crime. In time, he found himself taking corporate espionage jobs. Now, after a lifetime of struggle, he was one of the most accomplished industrial spies in the world.
Nobody could ever convince Yeager that crime didn’t pay. It TOTALLY paid, and he even had a plan for the next time he got caught. A candid memoir of his life, and a plan to spin up a consulting gig as a super security consultant after jail. Though it seemed unlikely, as he’d managed to catch the attention of a group he thought of as ‘The Suits’. It was a dumb name, but no dumber than what they called themselves.
He’d done a few jobs for a Mr. Pathway and Ms. Stab, and they informed him in no uncertain terms that so long as he restricted his activities to the realm of property theft, dubious consulting work, and information crimes, he’d be considered a useful asset. If he ever strayed in the direction of violent crimes, or messed with the wrong people or organizations, he would disappear without a trace.
Mr. Pathway was a mostly reasonable kind of guy, but Ms. Stab scared the hell out of Yeager, so he always gave assignments from them the highest priority. This despite the fact that they didn’t pay for crap, though a life free of legal entanglements was certainly worth all the money that they weren’t paying him.
Yeager was surprised to find that it wasn’t Pathway or Stab waiting for him at the satellite branch of the Boston library system, but two new faces, though clearly from the same organization. One was a huge man bearing all the obvious hallmarks of someone with enhanced strength. He had a blunt and rough looking face with short cropped blond hair.
The other suit looked so normal it stood out. He was a man of average looks, brown hair, and plain features. Yeager closed the meeting room door behind him, and settled down in one of the remaining chairs. He was more than a little surprised when the big man started the meeting, and even moreso when he proved to have a good voice, and a friendly manner.
Built as he was, Yeager was expecting a rough voice, blunt manners, and an Austrian accent.
“Mister Yeager,” said the giant. “I’m Mister Summer, and my associate here is Mister Stitch. We’re to be your new contacts with our organization. I’m afraid Miss Stab and Mister Pathway are no longer with us.”
“What like they quit?”
“Ah no,” said Mister Summer. “In the other sense.”
“They’re dead,” supplied Mister Stitch. Given the powers Pathway and Stab had, Yeager assumed that Stitch was a healer, but the man’s voice sent chills up his spine. His rather eccentric work life had put Yeager in contact with people who were entirely too comfortable with violence, and he recognized the type in Mister Stitch.
“We don’t really quit from our organization,” said Mister Summer. He pulled up a briefcase from under the table, and with surprising dexterity and grace for such a big man, pulled out a file folder, and a set of full prisoner restraints that were clearly the work of a tech genius. “We want you to have a look at these and tell us what you think, and have a look at some surveillance pictures we’ve taken of a larger object.”
“Of course Mister Yeager. Your arrangement wasn’t with Stab and Pathway, but with our organization as a whole.”
“Don’t try to haggle,” said Mister Stitch. There was a strongly implied threat in his voice.
Yeager sighed and examined the manacles, running his hands over the device and getting a feel for it’s operation. He examined the locking mechanism, and the strange mass of electronics bolted onto it.
“You already know they’re for suppressing powers I assume?”
The two men suits nodded.
“There’s something weird about these. They’re not DVA issue. They’ve only got a few tech geniuses and engineers working for them, and I know their work. This thing’s vicious too, and the DVA techs wouldn’t create something like this. It’s got the collar and wrist and ankle restraints like you’d normally see, and it can detect when someone starts activating their power, but it’s designed to kill the super, and do it slow and painful too. It’ll try ramming these blades into the throat and wrists and run a lot of juice through them. Only when that failed would the explosive charges go off.”
“Could anyone use them?” Mister Summer asked.
“If they knew the code to enter into the number pad here. I can’t help you with that one though.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Threatened Mister Stitch.
“That’s fine,” said Mister Summer. “We didn’t get a detailed rundown of your abilities, though we know most of your history. Now what can you tell us about these?”
Mister Summer pushed over the folder with a huge hand. Yeager opened it to find a series of pictures. Some were aerial pictures, and some were close up photos of a huge machine cobbled together out of what looked like appliances and auto parts. Yeager had only the vaguest idea of what he was looking at.
“Sorry guys, I can’t tell you any more than most engineers could. Those are power lines, and it looks like this thing takes in a TON of electricity. It looks like a redneck tried to build a high energy physics experiment from parts in a junkyard.”
“And if we assume the same person created both of these devices?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, but my bet would be some kind of weapon targeted against supers. You know I’ve worked with a lot of tech geniuses over the years. Most of them have an obsession or focus to their work. They invent one kind of thing. The person who made these nasty ass things was obsessed with shutting down supers.”
“If you can’t do better than that we need you to take a closer look Mister Yeager,” said Mister Summer. “We understand that you prefer to avoid entanglements with supers, but this is a high priority case for us. We’re prepared to double your usual fee.”
“And if I say no?”
Mister Stitch pulled a ragdoll out of his pocket and set it on the table. It stood up on it’s own, stared at Yeager with disturbing black button eyes, and hissed at him, revealing a mouth filled with razor blades.
“God damn that’s creepy,” said Yeager. “But…”
“Stop,” said Mister Summer. “I know that you’re about to dismiss my associate’s ability, but you should think about what this little demonstration implies. He is considered to be one of the most capable and potent animators on the planet.”
Yeager stopped and thought. He thought about how this was only a demonstration, and what a ten foot tall beanbag man made of ballistic cloth and filled with lead shot could do. He thought about all the different shapes of doll Stitch could control, and if he could control more than one of them at a time. He thought of razor wielding dolls able to squeeze through the smallest spaces, crawl out from ducts and pipes at any time, and swarm all over a person biting and stabbing at neck, wrist, and inner thigh. Yeager thought of a tiny and silent assassin dropped down a chimney sneaking up on a sleeping man with poison needles for teeth.
“I can see that you’ve thought it through,” said Mister Summer in response to Yeager’s look of horror. “I’m afraid my own power is rather pedestrian by comparison.”
He held a hand before Yeager; a hand wreathed in flames. Yeager promised himself to stop making assumptions about a person’s abilities by their appearance or name.
“I do so enjoy shattering people’s expectations Mister Yeager. The location of the device and all the information we have on the property owners is in the folder with the pictures. We think Humanity First has gotten their hands on a tech genius, but our efforts to find that person through our usual channels has turned up nothing. Don’t take too long in getting back to us.”