Hackjob: Part 9

“But,” Haley continued, looking up at the man, “my guess would be that they may have threatened his family, but he doesn’t think they’d really go after them. They mostly threatened him.”

His eyes zeroed in on her. “That’s not true.” At the same time, Haley and Travis both said, “He’s lying.”

Then they both laughed. It didn’t seem that funny. I wondered how much of it was a family thing.

The man grimaced, and looked toward the front door. I didn’t think he could possibly have a realistic escape plan, but I tensed anyway.

Vaughn must have noticed something either on the man’s part or mine. “Hey man, what should we call you? If you don’t have a name that you like, I’m going with Tigershorts seeing as how they’re at eye level.”

“Call me whatever. It doesn’t matter.”  The man muttered.

“He’s lying,” Haley said to us. Looking up at him, she said, “If you don’t like it, you could tell us a codename you do like, or even your real name.”

Tigershorts didn’t say anything.

“Come on, guy” Travis began, flexing his right forearm. “It’s not as if we have to ask. The Mystic may not be here, but we can get him with one phone call, and if he’s busy, we can get Mindstryke. Got that? All you get out of keeping silent is a telepath rooting around in your head. Now, if you do talk, well, we’ll know if you lie, but as long as you answer the questions truthfully, we won’t get much more.

“In your position, I’d talk. It’s better than giving someone a free look at all your memories. In fact, I might ask him to give you some kind of compulsion. Like maybe you email us every time something interesting comes up.”

That got his attention. His eyes widened and he stared at Travis. “You can’t do that. That’s against the law. They passed laws against all that shit after the Dominators got that senator.”

Travis nodded. “You got me there, but here’s something to think about. You never hear of heroes being prosecuted for it do you? It might be that they don’t, but it might be that no one cares when we do it. But… let’s bring this back to you. You’ve got a choice. You can find out first hand whether or not heroes get prosecuted for telepathic coercion, or you can answer our damn questions truthfully.”

Tigershorts lowered his head and took a breath. “Ask your questions.”

“Great,” Haley gave a quick smile. “We already know they contact you. How do they do it?”

Tigershorts scowled. “They put an envelope under one of the plants on my balcony. I’ve never seen it.”

“Balcony?” Camille asked. “How high are you?”

“Fourth-floor apartment.” Tigershorts didn’t even look at her as he replied.

“That wouldn’t be hard for Accelerando,” Travis said. “Gotta be their speedster.”

“Unless the speedster gets his speed from manipulating time or distance, ” I pointed out. “It’s still possible, but the height might be more of an issue then.”

Travis shrugged. “Could be. So what were you doing out in your mask?”

Tigershorts’ face tightened. “I was out for a run until that asshole,” he pointed at Kid Biohack, “showed up. I wasn’t doing anything illegal.”

Travis glanced over at Haley. She gave a quick nod.

He shook his head, apparently not able to believe it. “Then what were you doing in the mask?”

“I keep it in my fanny pack in case stuff like this comes up!” He finished louder than he’d started, probably because Vaughn started laughing when he’d said the words “fanny pack.”

I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but he did have a fanny pack. I’d never been completely sure what was wrong with them. If you thought about it, they were simply a temporary pocket, but somehow they’d become something people thought was funny.

Maybe it was because of the word “fanny?”

Ignoring Vaughn, Travis stood up, looking directly at Tigershorts’ face, “What’s your next assignment?”

Tigershorts sighed. “I don’t have one. I’ll probably never get one again thanks to you. You caught me. Even if they don’t think I gave you anything, they’ll never trust me again because instead of catching me quietly, you made it a big, fucking deal!”

He stared at Kid Biohack during the last sentence.

Maybe if it had been one of us, I might have argued with him, but there was no denying it, Tigershorts was right. Kid Biohack had broadcast the chase, and out of the hundred plus people watching the final capture, one of them must have uploaded it to the internet by now.

If we’d known a little more and had time to think it through, the smart play would have been to let him run somewhere unpopulated, and then take him down.

Haley broke the silence. “Do you have any clues to where they are?”

Tigershorts shook his head. “I never make my deliveries to the same place. I’ve never gotten to talk to them. Sometimes I bring them to a park, and other times a parking lot or an abandoned building. They stay away from people.”

Travis tapped on his comm. “Tell me exactly where you delivered each package that you can remember.”

As Tigershorts began listing them, sometimes stopping to talk through where he’d been (“It was on 47th street. I’m not sure which building, but it had a statue and a fountain…”), I got an alert on my  comm from Kayla. I answered.

“The police called. They wanted to remind us that holding someone against their will is kidnapping and that if we have any reason to hold him, there’s a metahuman cell open. They also told me to let you know that they can’t hold him very long without evidence.”

“Uh…  That’s okay,” I said. “Tell them it’s a mistake. Kid Biohack caught the wrong guy.”

Haley turned toward me. “Nice.”

It wasn’t a sure thing, but it was worth a shot.

19 thoughts on “Hackjob: Part 9”

  1. So I’ve having a little trouble making sense of what exactly “Tigershorts” does for the Syndicate. Kid Biohack says he’s a courier but what is he moving around? And isn’t it kind of a poor use of a superhuman operative to do nothing but transport packages/messages from one location to another on a city scale? What is Tigershorts doing that they couldn’t have a guy with a car (or a bicycle) do with less chance of capturing attention?

    1. You’re seeing Tigershorts in the exact worst situation, one where he’s essentially useless.

      Normally, he’s used in courier situations that could turn violent or need superhuman strength. Essentially, the courier Syndicate L uses when they need a little extra insurance. In fact, normally he’s not even using his powers. He’s delivering things the same way a nonpowered person would (in a car or truck). He’s at the lower end of metahuman, so he’s best off surprising people.

      Kid Biohack tracked him down when he was off the clock and had to use powers to escape, Tigershorts’ worst case scenario.

    1. He’s never had a lot of screen time but Travis has always struck me as more aggressive than his team mates, and he stated outright that he wanted to be the leader. They definitely need to be careful about turning down the wrong road here.

      As I recall, Nick wasn’t even big on following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he just kinda went along with the others and somehow became seen by the general public as the leader. He needs to either start leading instead of following whomever happens to be speaking, or make an official statement that somebody else is the leader.

      Let be clearly stated that I’m not saying his leading will keep the group from going places they should. Let’s all keep in mind who has been training the core group for the past decade.

    2. I mean, the legion does a lot of things that aren’t particularly sympathetic. Look at what was done to their non-powered parents to prevent them from knowing they had super kids – the block is kind of messed up in a general sense, and that specific one was just kind of horrific.

      And they don’t really seem to have a whole lot of accountability. The government assumes they’re in the right by default – here they grabbed someone who didn’t appear to have broken any laws as well as another hero and dragged them into a van using physical force, and the police sent them a polite letter about it.

      Basically that teacher who complained about super heroes was right.

      1. Mr. Beacham is imho partially correct. Supers are largely not accountable to mundane authorities. To misquote Maes Hughes from fma ‘this is a contest of freaks. What am I going to do shoot spitwads at him.’ unless the government acquires power neutralizing tech they don’t have a means for the average beat cop to deal with off reservation supers than to call in more supers and hope the property damage is minimal. I wonder if the power juice and activation device could be modified as a remotely injectable temp empowerment and the chair as a longer term one.

        Mr. Beacham was wrong about outed supers being less feudal due to exposure. The Heroes league has a ground level view of Grand Lake raher than the distant view outed supers would usually have.

      1. Yeah he was a giant mech suit thing that projects the users face on the head that was part of a failed invasion of Berlin in WWII I mainly remember that guy because of the fact that his suit was red and gold and had “Berlin or Bust!” Written on the chest combined with my only having a copy of the twelve for about a week to read apparently the entire premise of the comic series was to tell what happened to a bunch of hero’s who’s comics only lasted 1 to 5 issue’s

  2. After reading over 8 and a half years of archives in the span of a few weeks, it was quite a shock to get to the end of a post and not be able to click the next chapter button.

    Thoroughly entertaining and engaging work, Jim, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this story.

    I don’t plan on commenting a whole lot, but I’ll be back twice a week to check on the progress. Keep doing what you’re doing!

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