Motor City Intern: Part 4

As we left, the men from the ambulance started removing the dead man from his chair and put him on the stretcher. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. His body seemed to be stuck to the cushions—which was the point that I stopped watching and moved a little faster as I followed Mateo out the door.

As we got on our bikes, he said, “I’m going to stop about a block from here.”

I didn’t question it and rode behind him until he turned right into the cracked remains of a concrete driveway that sat in the middle of an otherwise green lot, the last remains of the house and garage it led to having disappeared long before I started my internship. The nearest house I could see was on the far end of the opposite side of the block. The block on the other side had three houses, but none of them were close either.

Through his helmet communicator, Mateo said, “I didn’t feel like waiting until we got back to the base. If we talk through the helmets comms, no one should be able to hear us, and if they can, it’s your fault, right?”

Updating their communications had been one of my projects. “I guess, but the helmets are soundproofed and the communications are encrypted, so it shouldn’t be an issue unless they’re a telepath. If they are, blame Working Man, I wanted to put anti-telepathic technology into the helmets, but he wouldn’t let me due to the cost. He’s not wrong. It wouldn’t have been cheap, but it’s worth thinking about.”

Nodding, Mateo said, “I remember that discussion. Getting back to my reason for stopping, what did you think about everything we saw back there?”

Even though Working Man or V8 were the senior heroes on the team, I’d spent most of my time with Mateo who’d only been out of Stapledon for a couple years at most. At the same time, he was both good at teaching and at street level work. That was the Masks’ main thing.

“Well,” I began, “she already knew the answer she wanted. She didn’t give us the victim’s name and she chose you specifically even though the Unity team has  Chromatic. He’s some kind of dragon wizard, right?”

Tilting his head to the side, Mateo didn’t say anything for a moment, but then nodded. “Chromatic isn’t much of a people reptile. I don’t know where he’s from, but I get the impression that humans aren’t worth much there. Besides, he’s all about blasting people with elemental magic and not so much about gathering information. She wouldn’t have gotten much out of him, but she knows I give them what I can. The police have been put through the ringer here—the undead like places like Detroit. I’d bet that she’s right about the vampires, but there are so many vampiric undead that I don’t dare tell her yes without more information.”

I nodded. “So, what are you going to do?”

I saw him grin through the tinted helmet. “First, tell me what you’re going to do.”

“Call Bloodmaiden. She knows about vampires. Then maybe call Red Hex and see if she has any ideas.”

He nodded. “That’s good. What I’m going to do is call one of our contacts on the police force and see if I can’t get all the names and exactly where they were found. While I’m at it, I think I might check if any of their friends ever disappeared.”

“That sounds like a good idea, one I probably should have thought up on my own.”

Shaking his head, he said, “Don’t worry about it. You don’t have contacts on the force and I’m supposed to keep them secret because they’re too sensitive to pass on to an intern.”

I shook my head. “Okay. It does make sense. I wouldn’t want to get them in trouble by accident or something.”

Mateo gave a twisted smile and tapped me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Working Man’s careful. Too careful, maybe.”

A couple cars passed us on the road. One of them was a police car. It didn’t stop, but the driver glanced over at us. I turned back to Mateo. “Did you see anything over there? Bloodmaiden’s got some kind of magic vision and I’m assuming you’ve got the same?”

He nodded and glanced over at the road. “It’s not exactly like hers, but it’s similar. Not everyone in my family can do it. It seems to be my mask adapting to me. I can see magic and spiritual forces.”

“Because you’re a priest?” I asked.

“I don’t know. The masks have their own goals—good ones, we think, but we don’t understand them. We know they want us to fight evil, stop oppression, and other priorities that change over time. Fighting the undead isn’t normally their focus, but it sometimes is for me. Whatever was there came in the front door. When I looked, I could see hints of it there and in-between the door and the chair. I think it had been back into the kitchen too.

“The good news if there is any, is that the dead man had touches of undead power around his neck, but nothing inside. When they turn someone, I see a kind of seed inside which expands into the entire body in a day or two. There wasn’t one here or I never would have let them take the body away.”

He stopped, frowned, thinking maybe of times where he had seen the seed he’d talked about. I asked, “Is there anything that makes you think it couldn’t be a regular vampire?”

“Not so far, but if the police go in assuming it is and die, it’s our fault.”

19 thoughts on “Motor City Intern: Part 4”

      1. Both of them went okay and I had another interview yesterday. I’ve got wait another week or two for second interviews if they happen though. Still, I’m hopeful for two of the three.

  1. So the masks seem to change depending on the person, have a will of their own, but still have base abilities or starting points they all share.
    Question though, how much can their powers change, can their be a gun weilding version of their powers if the person has the right qualities or can the magic not stray too far from their bas as magical masked swordsmen.

    And is chromatic that one dragon we heard mentioned and seen fighting aliens. Kinda curious why a guy with seeming little care for humans is qorking as a hero. Proably a story there.

    1. I second those questions and I really like “Working Man” as a superhero name. I’m really curious what his powers are. But I guess all those questions will be answered as part of this arc.
      Keep up the good work Jim!

  2. Will this have something to do with that one powerful vamp that helped the Thing That Eats in the past?

  3. Darn.
    There goes my bet for a human unsub.

    Here’s the thing. This is Nick’s internship. So two things jump out at me. One he could be doing like his grandfather and supplying tech. Meaning that if they can’t do the anti-telepathy themselves, he can offer a more affordable version.
    The second is should Nick go running to his Heroes League contacts if two different points on him being here are against it? One being to learn things other than the league way. And that this team is leery of picking up league enemies.

  4. I don’t think working man is the type to take handouts, and i don’t see how contacting league members will expose him unless someone can get the info from overhearing it, or hacking the communications. And I doubt he will tell the police exactly who he contacted besides the fact that they magically savvy

    1. First let me say thank you for responding to my comment.
      Now I don’t think negotiating with Nick for a lower cost defense item is a hand out. It is bartering, and it seems many many people love to barter and find bargains. And negotiating is part of business practices.
      Telepathy is a common enough power that there are various means of blocking it out there. So Nick suggests the top of the line model and Working Man shuts it down as too expensive for the few times it will be run into. Here is where you negotiate. Passive scrambler in helmets/cowls. Low cost and will keep casual scanning from getting you. So you have Some form of defense. The bikes carry a low power active suppressor. This means those on patrol are harder to steer into a wall. It also means if someone gets through the passives, the control can be shaken by getting back to a vehicle. And finally that high end job? Just one back at base. So everyone can be safe while surveying issues. Costs go way down and you have something for defense instead of nothing. Because the idea of ‘Too expensive’ is why police for a long time had no body armor. And I bring this one up often. Then there was a shootout between two men in full armor with m16’s versus police with no armor, side arms and maybe a shotgun in the back seat. So try to keep the playing field even.

      On the second part about contacting the league. . . If all he gets is information. Then I say great and there should be a heck of alot more of this in the hero community. But Bloodmaiden is a hot head. And she might show up to face the problem head on. And she should be seen as in the League or a close ally which would disrupt the whole no Heroes League in Detroit.

      Now of course I am wondering. Is this the same Mask Nick faced in the competition at Stapeldon, or is that another Mask? The build up seems to indicate the mask is not handed down but there are multiples in the family. So was that a younger brother or cousin?

      1. I mean, on the telepathy blockers, you are making a lot of assumptions here.

        First of all, is telepathy really all that common in this universe? I mean, we’ve seen a lot of it, but one of the characters we follow IS a telepath, and they’ve mostly dealt with massive threats that are potentially world ending, so naturally which characters we follow is going to bias how common certain abilities are. There is a significantly lower probability that a street level team who mostly deal with a threat range between a few individuals getting hurt/killed and a city block or two getting severely damaged is going to deal much with telepaths than a cosmic level team who deal mostly with threats ranging between national level to interstellar level with the occasional multi-dimensional threat and a looming pan-dimensional threat.

        Second of all, are there really a variety of in-universe tech-based defenses against psychics, and would the cheapest option really be affordable to get for every individual member? I mean, it’s one thing to say that other projects are a priority for funding edging out that particular bit of tech, but it’s another to say that that tech is out of budget because they literally cannot afford that many and still keep the lights on. As far as I recall, we haven’t really explored what tech based defenses exist against psychic attacks in-universe as the team has mostly relied on David to build defenses for them with his powers, especially since they like being able to communicate telepathically and such tech could easily interfere with it. It could easily be the case that there legitimately is only one option for tech-based psiblockers, or even if there are a variety of options, if there is a common material that is in itself prohibitively expensive, then even the cheapest option is could still be too costly.

        In the end, we have no reason to assume at this juncture that a street level team needs to defend against telepaths, as from what we’ve been told about the team and their priorities as heroes telepaths might not be something they would reasonably expect to run up against, and if even the cheapest available option is expensive enough that it comes down to choosing between that and something else that they reasonably expect to actually need and use on a frequent basis, then Working Man made the right call. Granted we are lacking a lot of information here that both he and Nick would certainly have, but frankly it isn’t reasonable to expect someone who isn’t either incredibly wealthy like Batman or able to produce whatever they might need themselves like Nick to prepare for literally every possible scenario. When resources are limited you prepare for the scenarios you expect to come up the most, try to do what you can about the ones you expect to be rare but inevitable, and don’t bother with things that aren’t likely to ever come up. Not saying that enemy telepaths fall into the third category, but they could also easily fall into the second and still not be worth shelling out however many hundreds of thousands it would cost to have every single member of their team outfitted with protection against them.

        1. We have heard of a few psy blocking tech before such as a device that generates psychic white noise that covers an area and makes telepathy impossible.

          Besides this I can’t think of many other examples that give specifics about how they work only that the diffrent devices are either very noticeable like the psychic white noise or very quiet and simply leave no traces. (The second kind seems to cover a smaller area, I think.)

        2. Oh my thoughts on telepathy being common is because how often the blockers and different ones there are out there. As stated there is white noise, the blank, and a shield effect. The Rook had the latter one on his base. As to level. The mayor of the town had telepathy. To look at the minds of mind controlled heroes they brought in I think three different telepaths? Making telepathy start to seem more common than enhanced strength.
          It was going to California we find that teleporters use similar methods and have shields against them. So yeah I think it is pretty common.
          And considering what happened to Future Cop and his team. I think all other teams should be re-evaluating the whole telepath issue. That was a hero team turned against other teams because they didn’t have defenses. Which is why I also suggest he negotiate with Nick. As Nick being the tech person he is. May find a cheaper way to provide defenses. So instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars it is just thousands. May still seem expensive. But do you want to have the National Guard called on you because someone made a puppet out of you?

          1. I think these powers are common enough but we really don’t have any exact numbers to compare. So we can only speculate.

          2. And we also don’t know how common it is to have multiple mental powers or what the common level of strength is for mental powers or their range limits.

  5. Its blue mask from the competition, you can see his name tagged at the end of this part.

    And i get what you mean bout the bartering but from what we have heard about Working Man in part 2, he seems to have issues with heroes who he feels traded in their heroics for money. That obvioulsy isn’t fair to the league but it might have more to do with familys like Kid Biohacks. And honestly he just seems the stubborn type when it comes to money.

    1. You are right. I mean even the hero name of Working Man says he has a serious pride in where he is. Until we meet him I think I will be leery of him. He sounds like a crab bucket kind of person. “Work the coal mines like we have for a hunerd years. Don’t go puttin on airs with them fancy schoolins”

      Probably over the top on accent and attitude. . . or hope I am. . . <.<

  6. I do think you are right but I just don’t think Working Man is the type to budge easily on natters like this.
    Especially if he feels its a hand out from rich heroes. Maybe I am wrong but he may only change his mind if something happens.

  7. Thank you Jim. One small error detected.
    “have been put through the ringer here”
    I think you meant “wringer” which is an ordeal. Unless they were attacked by a master sheep shearer from Australia?

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