I looked out over the city. Dark and full of history, and full of darkness under it. The birthplace of liberty and revolution… and the Irish Mob.
I’d been back for two months. Between the three years in prison, the month in overland travel to Guangzhou, and then the month and a half on the cargo ship (which was fascinating and illuminating), the idea of being back in Boston was almost strange to me. America seemed softer. Even with the cold of March in my hair, it wasn’t as cold as IK44 had been. (Ah, the Far East District… if I never saw it again, I would be happy. But at least it wasn’t The Gulagthe Russian prison for metahumans.) I’ve come back with an excellent grasp of the Russian language, a smattering of conversational Tagalog, and a tremendous appreciation for the American system of immunization.
In those two months, I’d mourned my grandmother, got my mother to finally stop hugging me every five minutes (I didn’t mind that much, but it really was getting in my way of doing anything), got two tattoos removed (a couple left in case I needed them for later), had my identity re-verified (after all, Mellisa Flanagan was supposed to be missing in Russia, and Marishka Petrovskaya was a barely legal immigrant who had no connection to her), then set about proving to myself I could still be me.
First things first: Glass Jimmy, my snitch, had managed to get himself tagged for fencing stolen property and was in Framingham for the next dozen years. That was okay – Marishka’s reputation with the vory was good enough that she could could simply shrug and tell anyone who asked why she was in Boston (“Мне нужно было куда спокойнее.”I needed somewhere calmer.) Mellisa, if she answered that honestly, would tell a story about having asked the wrong questions in the wrong places and offering the wrong person the wrong ‘honorarium’ (read ‘bribe’), and getting a fake Russian identity so they could put her in a prison in the far end of Siberia. (I have no idea who my father made so angry they would do that to me, but whoever it is, they have a lot of influence.)
Then the costume. I’d been smart and left it home, along with the gear except some of the little things I kept in the coat – the small criminalistics kit, the flashlight, the recorders – so at least I hadn’t lost anything. But I’d grown three inches taller, gained some weight (all muscle – there goes my mom’s hope for a curvy girl), and the old suit wouldn’t work. I decided to make a new one, update things a little. Leather jacket in dark grey to start; did some sewing to add in a bunch of extra pockets for my crimefighting gear. Then a jumpsuit, dark blue. The old gloves fit, and the Docs I bought to replace the Chucks were fine – never wore them. I kept the hat and the goggles – kind of a motif, you know? (It took a while to figure a way to keep the hat on – the old full-hood version had snaps on the hood to keep the hat on. One of Mom’s old books on theatrical costuming gave me the tip of sewing combs into the hat. Once I had that in and in place, it didn’t come off until I wanted it off, even when dropping fifteen stories.)
I used the cutouts I’d set up, and upgraded my gear a little – the criminalistics kit needed a lot of stuff replaced, the lockpicks were rusty, the recorder and flashlight needed batteries, the smoke bombs had gone inert (who knew that happened?) and the rebreather filters had rotted away. I did need to make changes to the goggles – apparently my newly emerged Atlantean blood had cured my nearsightedness, and it needed the corrective lenses replaced. My line-gun’s seals had decayed and all the gas had gotten out – another replacement before I could come out here.
New stuff gotten. I was ready to try again.
Finally, my arsenal. The new ability I’d developed after the gun was damaged years ago had developed fully during my time away. The vest and the gun no longer needed power cells – I could run them off the power I generated now. A little time to adjust those, and run some traces into my gloves for delivering a charge, and no more need for batteries. I had discovered that my touch alone could be used to deliver a jolt of it into someone directly, so instead of needing to pistol-whip people, I could just punch them and they’d feel the jolt. Running traces up the sleeves to my elbows, out of my shoes, and up to my knees, meant that I could add that jolt to most of my hand-to-hand techniques. The Muay Thai and Jeet Kune Do I’d learned before going to Russia, and the systema that I’d learned in prison from a disgraced Spetznaz officer, would let me mix it up and drop the jolts in fights.
Granda had left me some more money. I banked most of it. Used the cutouts to get a Slingshot, then modified it a little.
Now… I needed to know if I was ready before I came back for real.
So here I was, on top of the movie theatre, looking across Tremont at the Common, and taking a deep breath. I managed to climb up here. I haven’t been up this high in months – even on the prow of the Morgenskava, it didn’t seem this high from the deck to the water. But I have no fear. It’s like I lost it somewhere, maybe in prison.
I turn around and shoot the line-gun, let it set, then trigger the pull and end up on top of the Opera House. I’m laughing, the jolt of the pull on my arm and that feeling of the wind in my face, and I’m here, I’m back, I’m in my element again, in the city, and then I hear a scream. The laughter ends. The vest energizes, covering me in the deep violet against my skin (I never realized it did that until I took off the hood), and I’m off again, the line-gun letting me drop into the alley.
The woman is limp, his hands around her neck, her back to me. He’s wearing a black trenchcoat, a black beret, and a black balaclava, so all I can see is his eyes. They’re a strange green color, even in this dark alley, almost glowing. Then what appears to be a wide-toothed smile starts to glow on his face, and I realize the whole thing is a light-emitting mask.
“And here I thought the Night had fallen,” he says, his voice cheerful. This line is pretty much what I expect to hear a lot in the next few weeks.
“Night always returns,” I reply, and he gives a very small start at how the field distorts my voice. (Silver Sentinel once told me it adds subsonic harmonics that the human nervous system finds disturbing below the conscious level.)
“Well, allow me to welcome you back. I assume that The Night isn’t your actual birth name, so in return let me share the nom de la guerre I have chosen. I am Mister Blasphemy, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance this fine if chill evening.”
“Let go of her,” I say, feeding a little energy into my hand, making it crackle with pale purple lightnings, “and we can continue our discussion.” I realize suddenly that she’s wearing a black cassock and a wimple – a nun.
“Here, hold her, then.” He pushes her at me, letting go of her. I drop the power, dive and catch her, only to find that it’s nothing more than a large stuffed dummy. The face is painted with green eyes and a wide smile, and something’s pinned to the chest.
“Do have a good evening – I’m sure we’ll meet again soon!” I hear Mr. Blasphemy’s voice say, but when I look, he’s gone into the alley. I turn back to the mannequin, seeing there’s a rosary made of Milk Duds, an inverted cross, and then the note pinned to the chest:
I was back. And things were weird. Good.
Tomorrow night, I’d check to see if Vigilance had done any security audits. I’m sure they cut my access… but I had three more access codes hidden in there (one under ‘Administrator’). One should still work.
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