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The Serpent and the Devil (IC)

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16th May

As Subito and Kristen walked through Claremont, the ever-acute hearing of Subito heard it...

Click....Click Click...

On further examination, it was none other than Jack Jackson, snapping the "Happy couple".

"Ah there you two are..." he blustered as approached.

"The disaster from down under and her lovely boyfriend.So nice to see you both. What spectacular threat are you two going to serve up to Freedom City today, huh? Perhaps a nuclear meltdown? a tsunami? a crashing plane?" Giving Kristen a particularly spiteful glare at the last scenario.

"Or perhaps you have come to see those illegal immigrants you 'saved' being carted off back to Mexico, huh?"

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Subito wasn't a born scholar, his penchant for action before thought generally kept him from most higher aptitudes, but he was quite studious, and took his school assignments quite seriously. So it seemed to him quite sensible to have multiple studying buddies to consult and tackle difficult subjects.

The stocky Puerto Rican, dressed in his normal body-hugging white t-shirt and blue jeans with attendent school-colors baseball cap, glared at the unwelcome figure, tossing a green satchel of books and other school supplies deftly onto a small rounded lift in the thick school lawn. Walking directly up to the cameraman he demanded brusquely "Why are you here Mr. Jackson? If you want to take pictures of people, it's usually best to ask 'em first, otherwise you look even sketchier than you already do" his eyes narrowed "Besides, the 'disaster' can at least solve the problems she gets into, and she gets into them 'cause she wants to help people. Speakin' of which, maybe she will go and see the people she rescued from a fricking torture-ship! What's it to you?"

A sudden realization sent a surge of blood into his cheeks "Also, I ain't her boyfriend!"

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Kristin rolled her eyes as Jackson approached.

"You think he'd start behaving a little bit less like a jerk what with the bit where I saved his life..." she muttered under her breath, knowing that Subito with his superhuman hearing would be the only one to hear.

She folded her arms across her chest and looked unimpressed as her friend exchanged words with the irritating reporter, then shook her head. "Subito stop arguing with him, you're just giving him what he wants. He's just fishing for something because he can't find anything newsworthy by himself."

"Also, I ain't her boyfriend!"

She caught her friend by the arm and started to pull him away, then stopped. "And you don't have to say that like it would be the worst thing in the world!" she exclaimed in her best indignant tone.

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" Speakin' of which, maybe she will go and see the people she rescued from a fricking torture-ship! What's it to you?"

"You are going to have to hurry then!" smirked Jackson, as he took another picture of the 'happy couple' with angry faces.

"They are about to be deported back to Mexico. After all, they are illegal immigrants. Papers been done and dusted already, our boys been surprisingly quick and efficient for once. Send 'em back to where they belong, and all that!" he said with a humorous tone.

"And you don't have to say that like it would be the worst thing in the world!"

"Hey maybe it is love!" he laughed without jollity. "I won't even have to make it up when I write this! It writes itself!" he added, taking a step back and picturing the two together with another click of his camera.

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"Yeah yeah, fine" muttered the stocky Puerto Rican, glancing the tail of a furious eye at Jack Jackson as he was dragged away, starting when Kristin abruptly rounded on him "Whu-come on! I-I just..Jackson..we were..whatever, let's just go." he snapped in embarrassment, taking the lead and hurrying around the next corner. He wished fervently he could have just punched Jackson into the air like Galanta probably would have, She sknows how to deal with situations like this he thought in no little gloom.

Once they were out of Jack's sight he stopped, looked squarely at Kris and said quietly "So, what do we do? Go see those people as Glow and Heraldo? it might be a little comforting to them."

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Kristin was greatly amused by Subito's discomfort, but she hid her smile and followed him away from the annoying reporter.

She ran her hand through her hair as she considered her friend's question. "I didn't hear anything about them being deported," she mused. "Seems a little strange, I'd have thought they had a pretty good shot at being granted refugee status, especially after what they went through on that ship. They sure got processed pretty fast if they're getting sent back already."

She chewed on her bottom lip a little as she thought the situation over, then gave Subito a bit of a grin. "I think it's a good idea for Glow and Heraldo to give them a bit of a visit," she agreed. "At the very least we might be able to reassure them a bit. Or you might be, I'll just stand there being awkward because I don't understand a word they say and they don't understand me either!"

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A little later...outside town....

Proceedings where indeed being conducted at a pace. The twenty odd survivors were being 'temporarily housed' in a basic wards, semi-secure, and the bus that had come to take them away was already parked.

The official who met Kritsen and Subito seemed friendly enough. His neat suit was complete with a neat namebadge "Tyrone Smith". He was a middle aged man of broad build, with short hair and a not unattractive face, with a complexion that spoke of mainly African heritage.

"Yeah, paperwork came through yesterday. No more appeals, I am afraid. These folk are being shipped back to Mexico tomorrow. Can't say I feel all to good about that, after what they went through, but the law's the law..."

He coughed with a touch of embarrassment.

"Still, visitors are allowed. Legal and otherwise...just gotta put down your names and sign you in..." he said, producing a clipboard for their signatures.

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Signing the paper with the title of 'El Heraldo de la Dama Azul de Puerto Rico' using quick strokes and flourishing letters, Subito handed the pen and clipboard to Kristin, asking Tyrone Smith curiously "It is perhaps none of my business Mr. Smith, but my comrade Glow brought up a very pertinent question to me on our way here: what are they culpable of? Surely the horrendous circumstances of their flight and imprisonment merit a little leniency for their less than legal attempt at immigration?" he loosened the staff of his Bandera as he spoke, knowing that its use might be needed to bring new strength into the hearts of the refugees inside.

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Tyrone scratched the back of his head in embarassment, looking away. He was sweating heavily, and despite the heat of the midday, it could not account for all of his perspiration.

"Illegal Immigrants" he mumbled "look...I don't make up the law. I just enforce it, and try and give folks a reasonable ride whilst they are being investigated...."

He shuffled his feet.

"Although, I got confess, these folks had it bad. Can't say I approve of deportation. But, you know, it is a bit odd...the way this thing got signed and sealed. Normally we have lawyers arguing for months, appeals, more appeals... you know the drill. Heck, sometimes I think the system is too stuck up its ass and its all too slow. But, in this case, I don't...this was fast. Too fast..."

He drummed his fingers against the clipboard when he collected there signatures, clearly uncomfortable about the whole thing.

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Glow signed her name and handed the clipboard back over to the man, giving him a raised eyebrow as she did.

Wow he doesn't look comfortable at all. Something strange is going on with this one.

"Mister Smith,"she started cautiously. "You seem like you're a little uncomfortable with how this case has been handled. Is there anything that you can tell us about it? Who was in charge of the case, or where the decision was handed down from?"

She glanced at Heraldo, then looked back at the immigration officer. "These people are refugees and they were involved with some very dangerous people. We just want to make sure they're safe, so any information you can give us would be very helpful."

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Tyrone paused, and blew through his puffed cheeks.

"Well, you didn't hear it from me" he answered "but I have never seen this deportation bill go through so fast. All above board, it seems..." he flicked through his clip board "but I've done this job for more years than I can remember. Not an easy one, I add. Hours are long, its stressful, pay is low..."

He caught himself.

"Anyway, I have never seen anything like this before. Look, if you want to ask questions, go ahead, but I doubt I can answer them. All I know is that these folks, they got a look of..well dread in their eyes...despair, you know? but they all keep quiet. Dead quiet. "

His finger traced a line over some of the paperwork.

"The order came from a Mr. Jonathan Cloak. A high up lawyer in the department. Guess you could ask him, but these guys are all as slippery as a fish if you ask me. You ain't got long before these guys are off, mind..."

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There were some days Subito deeply loved the anonymity and freedom his powers and costume gave him. As a random Hispanic teenager from a working-class family he would likely have never been able to approach someone like this Jonathan Cloak, but decked out as they were he and Glow commanded at least a little respect, and would likely suffer few bars to such a meeting.

"I quite understand" he said to Smith gravely, knowing very well what it was like to work long, stressful hours for little pay "We'll do our best to console the unfortunates before going to see Mr. Cloak about this. Could you tell us where to find him?" he asked, glancing at Kristin a little belatedly in case she had other ideas "From what you've said I agree: this all sounds very unusual, and not just a litle suspicious to boot!"

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"I probably shouldn't" replied Tyrone, scratching the faintest stubble on his square jaw. "But what the hell, I told you his name, and its easy enough to look him up. He is bang next to City Hall. Little squit, I tell you. Holed up in some swanky little office. Here, his address..."

He scratched it down on a piece of paper. It was evident that Cloak was not a popular fellow in general.

"What about the deportees? come to say goodbye to them?"

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Glow took the piece of paper and glanced at it to memorize the address, then handed it on to Heraldo. Then she shot Tyrone a look.

"We're here to see them, to offer them our support and to fix things that need fixing." she said with a quiet intensity that Heraldo had heard from her before. "Thanks for your help mister Smith," she continued. "You have a hard job to do here and it's good of you to do the right thing like this."

She started towards the door, then paused. "Wait, didn't you say they're leaving tomorrow? Why is there already a bus here?" she asked, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

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"Good question" answered Tyrone, looking back to his flip charts.

"Looks like some agent has come to personally escort this lot back to Mexico" he said "a G.Williams....never heard of him before, but then, I get all sorts of names. Phew...must be high profile sensitive stuff..." he continued, scratching his head once more.

"Any how, you can see the illegals now..." he said, pointing the two youths to the visitors office.

It seemed the refugees were particularly well secured. No direct contact was allowed. An Iron grate separated them from the two heroes, and armed guards were at standby.

"It...It's you!" said one young woman, rushing up to the grill when she recognised the twosome.

"God bless your souls, you saved us!"

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The nagging irritation at the repeated term 'illegals' was steadily growing, and it took no little restraining of himself to keep from making snarling remarks against the older man.

Nodding firmly to Tyrone and smiling at the bureaucrat El Heraldo said "That is a great help, no matter how paltry it might seem to you. Thank you, Mr. Smith" Guh, don't say it like when talking about John, that'd get awkward real fas-wait, I talk about him like that? almost stopping short at the sudden realization, he went in through after Glow, thinking this over with great care.

Glancing with a raised eye at the security details, he kept just behind Glow. When the grateful woman called out to the two of them he spoke cheerfully to her in Spanish <"Sweet lady, pay me no mind, your rescue is her doing!"> It WAS thanks to her they'd gotten the refugees back to land, after all, he would never have been able to carry the entire ship, something he still found almost too incredible to believe. With a cheerful grin he asked the woman(relaying her answers to Kristin) <"How are you being treated? Are you comfortable, and is there anything we can do for you? We may need to save you again shortly, be ready for it!"> To his schoolmate he asked very carefully and beneath the hearing of the two nearby guards "Glow, do I seem..weird?"

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Glow listened as Heraldo translated some comments and questions back and forth - and wished she could speak the language herself. She couldn't contain her grin however when he paused to ask..

"Glow, do I seem..weird?"

"Weird? Have you seen what you're wearing?" she chuckled. "Oh it's no fun when you set me up like that, there's no challenge to it! Why would you seem weird? Do you feel weird?"

She looked around a little, then spoke again in much quieter tones. "I'll tell you what does seem weird. This whole deal. I mean, there's armed guards in here. These people are locked up tighter than most actual real criminals. Something is definitely amiss around here."

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"Yes, yes..." replied the young woman to Heraldo "At least..it's better than the boat...we do not go hungry, they look after us well. But, tomorrow, we go back to Mexico..."

She wiped away a tear, full of fear.

"Our village. Where El Sierpe rules. You do not understand, American's. The serpent, he rules with an Iron fist. Nobody is safe from him. That is why we tried to escape to America, but we were tricked by the Devil...the man who experimented on us. For all his evil, El Sierpe is no better..."

She wrung her hands desperately.

"We are doomed!"

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'American'? is this flag on my back not enough?

"Don't worry" El Heraldo assured her gently "Glow and I will do our best to make sure you don't get sent back to that place. But why," he asked in puzzlement "why have no heroes arisen to battle this 'El Sierpe'? There are not a a few mighty beings living in Mexico that would jump at the chance to bring down a prominent crime lord like him, does he have some special protection? I know speaking of this vile man must be fearful, but...what has he done to get such power?"

he knew that this was pressing it, and that the unfortunate woman might very well refuse to answer the question entirely, but he wanted to know at least a hint of what was going on. he knew quite well that while the majority of supers could be found in or around North America, the South and Central Americas had their share of valiant champions Someday, I'm gonna be one of 'em he thought with sudden ferocity.

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"He is quiet, and deadly...like the Snake!" she hissed, quietly, fear exploding in her eyes.

"El Sierpe, nobody speaks about him. There are only whispers, very quiet whispers. El Siepre, he does not shout, he does not brag, or boast. He does not need to. EVeryone is still scared of him, nobody speaks. If anybody does..."

He eyes shot from left to right, scared witless.

"You see? that is why we ran. That is why we are dead now. Worse than dead..." she shuddered.

"They say..." she whispered in even more hushed tones "that he drinks the blood of the snake, and now, he is more snake than man, and just as deadly..."

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Glow's eyes narrowed as she listened to Subito's translation.

"Sounds like someone needs to sort that guy out big time." she muttered. "But I think it's more important to see what we can do to stop these people getting sent back first. If he's anywhere near as bad as they say then they're clearly refugees in need of protection."

She leaned against the wall and folded her arms across her chest as she thought about the situation. "Can you reassure them as best you can? Make sure they know we're not just hanging them out to dry," she said to her friend. "Then I guess we have a couple of leads. This Williams guy and the lawyer. Which one do you want to go see first?"

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"Gotcha" acknowledged El Heraldo quietly, in a louder voice translating the message to the Mexican refugees. <"Do not fear, we came to see how you were being treated and shall now depart, to do our best to keep you from being shipped back into the j-..unbearable circumstances you fled from"> he declared firmly, cringing inwardly at the figure of speech that had tried to insinuate itself into the sentence <"Take heart, neither of us would ever willingly abandon you to that creature. We will return when we have done what we can, if we will succeed or fail God alone knows. Evil is set against us, and it will not give way without effort, so again I say..take heart!"> he proclaimed, the Bandera shining forth with a radiant glow, filling the soul and mind with a vision of goals attained, victory won and evil destroyed, with a marching of a thousand feet and a lusty cry of ten thousand voices raised in triumph!

"Alright," said Subito to Kristin as he turned away with a bow to the emigrants "I say we see the lawyer first. If this Willams guy is involved I wanna know a little more about how he got the lawyer to do this, it might help stop a blackmailing or whatever it is." He hoisted the flagpole over his shoulder, glancing at the address on the paper "Shouldn't be hard to find...ready when you are Glow" he said with a fierce smile.

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A little later...

"I'm sorry Mr. Cloak can't possibly see anyone today..." said the receptionist. She was a middle aged woman, immaculately kept and rather attractive, and rather in awe of seeing two superheroes in the offices of Cloak Solicitors [Est 1988].

Her office was perfectly kept, and it seemed she kept everything in perfect order. Her eyes shone out that she would love to help to heroes....

But it seemed Mr. Cloak was, to be blunt, a Tyrant. He was certainly in, that much was for sure. They could even just make out his form behind the frosted glass window in his office, just beyond the receptionist and her desk...

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Well, might as well try the persuasion thing thought Heraldo solemnly to himself. He didn't know why, but recently a slight..distaste or even slight manipulation of people had taken root. The more he had started reading about the ways diplomacy worked on a national scale, the more he felt that just the mild encouragements, kindly words and casual insinuations he was getting more and more used to were just plain wrong. It wasn't a rational thing, and thus not something he could persuade himself out of through an application of logic.

This time though...at least it was in a good cause.

Leaning against the table, tucking one leg behind the other and turning a warm and gallant smile on the receptionist he said "Ah, but Ms. Grady" he said as smoothly as he could, noting the name on the small stand "we can't possibly not see him. A great peril lurks for a group of people who Mr. Cloak is partially responisble for, and unless we speak with him, we may lose our only hope of averting it!" taking one of her hands gently in his he asked gravely "Ms. Grady, will you help us stop this evil? Prevent a plot of villainy from being fulfilled?"

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Ms. Grady bit her lip as she listened to El Heraldo's passionate plea.

"Mr. Cloak?" she said, eyes wide. "He wouldn't be mixed up with anything evil..would he? responsible for them? I am sure he would want to stop anything happening..."

She shot her eyes at the door.

"He doesn't normally like to be disturbed...but..."

She made up her mind.

"You are heroes! oh it's so exciting! just wait till I tell my friends I helped some dashing heroes!" she said, clapping her hands excitedly. For a second, or perhaps a few more, and slightly uncomfortable ones, she gazed longingly and adoringly into El Heraldo's eyes, blushing slightly.

"Oh Mr. Cloak! I am sorry to disturb you, but we have two very special guests!"#

"What is it! I'm not to be disturbed!" said Mr. Cloak, quickly shutting down the card game on his computer and replacing it with a spreadsheet.

"What? Who? Why? Some heroes?" he said, spluttering the words.

Mr. Cloak was a tall man, of average build, with slightly thinning blond grey hair that still worn long and floppy. He had a handsome but somewhat hawkish face, and looked intelligent. He was dressed in a dark black suit of excellent cut, and a crisp white tie, with a thin black tie to complement it. Overall, he had a very monochromatic look about him.

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