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September 2016 

Lincoln 

 

Dancia had spent a week away from the office, covering a story about the new generation of West African nuns who were taking over an isolated Franciscan nunnery down on the Maurice River in southwestern New Jersey. it had been a fascinating story and a chance to meet people she might never have met, but the nunnery's remote location had left her isolated from world events. No sooner had she arrived back at the Ledger that she had a stack of urgent messages - including one from a familiar UNISON agent asking her to arrange a meeting with Triakosia at a remote cliffside lookout spot near Lonely Point.

 

"This is an urgent meeting. Please let me know as soon as you've arranged it - and when we can see her there."

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Dancia had enjoyed her time among the nun for many reasons but one of them was that she'd slept really well, ironic considering the last time she'd slept so well in a month was as a puppet. So relaxing was the place she'd chosen to take a holiday from being a hero as well, the last month or so had run her ragged. But she couldn't stay there forever, the story had to be filed and she missed her cat, and as much as she liked it she wasn't quite ready to be nun yet.

 

Once back in the Ledger she was sorely tempted by the option to be a nun when she saw the message from UNISON, it blunted the thrill that she was important enough to get messages now, but it had been something she'd been expecting for a while. She was well aware that her connection to the Centurion legacy still caused some concern among many, especially as most that had come since his death had been bad in some way.

 

Checking her schedule, she was still junior enough that she couldn’t just leave to chase her own stories, before arranging a time to meet. She’d have to catch lunch on the run it seemed.

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When Triakosia arrived at her appointed rendezvous, she found a roadside rest-stop near the top of a seaside cliff. As this was after Labor Day weekend and early afternoon on a workday, there were only a few cars parked in the lot. Sitting at one of the outdoor picnic tables, she found her two subjects - Mark Lucas, who as Edge was one of the most famous unmasked heroes in the world, and his associate Monsoon, resplendent in blue, gold, and white armor and cape. 

 

"Hello, Triakosia," said Edge warmly, standing to greet her and shake her hand. "I'm glad you're here." His grip was firm, his gaze on hers measuring. Monsoon was watching Triakosia, and favored her with a nod - but didn't rise. "Will you sit down? We need to talk." 

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So it was one of the most famous power couples, in both senses of the words, not that she was expecting anyone else really. The journalist in her really wanted to know their story, especially as they seemed so incompatible on paper, it would be the kind of story that would have made a name for herself. She had actually considered being the exclusive reporter of her own exploits, and eventually those of her friends, but she thought that it might be a little too obvious.

 

Gently touching down she greeted Mark with a broad smile and a warm greeting, it was almost impossible to dislike Edge which was probably why he was often tasked with delivering bad new she guessed.

 

“Why do I get the impression that this isn’t just a coffee and a catch up?” she kept her tone neutral, with only a hint of humor, she wasn’t trying to antagonize anyone just yet

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"Most people don't know this," Mark began, "but Monsoon and I are part of UNIQUE - the group of superhumans that work for the United Nations. That means that when there's a real international crisis, we're likely to be called in." Mark folded his hands on the table before him and said, "Triakosia, can you tell us where you were over the Labor Day long weekend?" 

 

"An alibi witness would be nice too," spoke Monsoon, her Received Pronunciation slightly muffled by her mask. "Not that we don't question the word of a superhero - but you understand." From the skeptical tone in her voice, it sounded like she actually did question the word of a superhero. 

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"Would you believe I spent the time at a nunnery? And not place renowned for wi-fi, hang on wait a minute."

 

She dug out her work phone, she would be surprised by now if they didn't have her League files with her civilian identity, and started it back up talk as she did so.

 

"The paper has a Twitter feed so I took some pictures to promote my story, only just uploaded then when I got back but the originals will have the date stamp."

 

She showed a selfie of herself with some rather bemused nuns, handing the cell to Edge so he could see she was being honest about the situation.

 

"Feel free to look at the rest of the photos, it's a nice place you should go visit."

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Mark took the information and began looking it over with a serious look on his face, letting Monsoon continue the conversation. As the two women talked, he took out his phone and began taking pictures of Triakosia's, obviously sending her information somewhere. 

 

"That's very fortunate," the hydrokinetic commented. "But on the other hand, we all know the formidable extent of your powers. An alibi for a normal woman is not the same thing as an alibi for a metahuman." She steepled her gauntleted hands on the table in front of her. "If you were going to fly from here, to, say, central Africa - how long would it take you?

 

They both were watching her intently now - suggesting that her next answer was an important one indeed. 

 

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Dancia might have been slightly irked but she didn't let it show on her face, long ago she had served in the military and been subjected to much worst interrogation. Beside she was sure that they thought they had a good reason for the interrogation.

 

"Actually the nunnery was just outside Freedom City , but I guess the point still sounds." She tried, mostly successfully, to keep her voice matter of fact. "To answer the question I could probably reach any spot on Earth in under an hour, up into orbit to if I need be."

 

She sat back and crossed her arms, though she tried to keep her tone neutral.

 

"Can I at least ask what you think I'm responsible for?"

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"Over the weekend, the Ligue de la Justice de l'Afrique Centrale was deployed to the Yade Massif in the Central African Republic in response to rumors of local people going missing. The Ligue handles metahuman incidents in central Africa too big for any one hero to handle - they have volunteer members from Angola, Chad, Gabon...all people who could have made themselves millionaires in the private sector but who give their time and their lives to protect their people." Mark actually choked up briefly at that, letting Monsoon take over the conversation. 

 

"They're dead now." Monsoon was, when it pleased her, straightforward. "Yesterday, park rangers found the partial remains of thirty missing villagers and the five Ligue members. They had all been killed, and dissected - and from eyewitness testimony, DNA evidence, and recordings, the murderer was you, Triakosia.

 

Mark took over again, having recovered - or had he been choked up at all? "Central Africa's been on the edge of war for years. With the disappearance of their metahuman defenders, that war may happen - especially since there's evidently someone loose in central Africa who can massacre an entire super-team and escape undetected. What do you think the UN should do about this?" Mark asked Triakosia, giving her a level look. 

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All humour drained from Triakosia face as she listened to what had happen in Central Africa, she tried to keep up and help where she could in many of the world's trouble spots trying to live up to a legacy of a man she'd never known.

 

"You have my word that this was not my doing, but we all know that doesn't mean I didn't do it. So really I have only one option..." She slowly and deliberately stood up.

 

Long ago when she served in the Legion she had been taught that sometimes one person's actions could effect the way of the world. Sometimes it would be a life saved but other times it would be a life sacrificed to serve the greater good. Until the truth was found out it was important that someone take responsibility for this act.

 

"... I surrender myself over to you authority. All I ask is that you provide some cover for my civilian identity, and get someone to look after Centurion - my cat. He's a little grumpy but a loveable little cat." She paused and looked slightly guilty before continuing "I'd recommend a telepathic in case I'm under some sort of control, Psyche has been through my mind so would be best to spot any unusual."

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From a nearby blue car, there was the sound of a slamming door, and then heavy footsteps. If Triakosia could look over and see, she'd observe Cobalt Templar calmly walking over, his cape flapping slowly in the breeze, arms swinging at his sides (for the moment). 

 

"That's good to hear. And I'm sure we can manage something for your civilian self. We know how that goes. Sorry it has to be this way, really."

 

Apologetic or no, he moved to stand just a bit behind and to the side of the surrendering heroine, waiting for the others to come over and help restrain her safely. 

Edited by KnightDisciple

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Phalanx had hovered far above 'hidden' behind a passing cloud that would have made excellent cover had her senses not been the equal to his own.  Dropping to the sidewalk beside the car he offered Triakosia a small nod of greeting and glanced to Monsoon who had very, different, opinions on people's trustworthiness.  "I told you such subterfuge was pointless."  he seemed to continue a former disagreement but did not dwell.  

 

"Thank you for your understanding Ma'am."  he said appreciatively, "Know that we do not level such accusations lightly."  he assured her and glanced to Edge expectantly as he was uncertain where she was to be taken for further questioning.

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Behind the growing group the empty burnt orange muscle car with the stripe of chipping black began to fold in unsettling ways, panels retracting and rotating only to reform. In moments it had reconfigured itself into something sleek and matte black save for the blood red wing pattern that swept up either side. Nor was it empty any longer, the simulated view through the windows flickering once before fading to a dark tint. The driver's side door opened with an almost imperceptible click and Midnight stepped out, the brim of his hat low over the ominous red eyes of his mask. He didn't say anything or move to join the others by the picnic bench, only folded his arms and leaned against the vehicle.

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From the other side of the black and red vehicle, Wander emerged, looking calm but wary as she automatically sized up the situation around her. Most of her attention was focused on Triakosia, but she was ready for anything that might appear from any direction. She was in full uniform but no mask, her slim silver bat was in one hand, but not extended to its full five-foot length at the moment. She walked over to join Midnight on his side of the car, nodding fractionally at the others, then at Triakosia herself. 

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Despite the name, the Karre Mountains weren't actually that high - the Central African Republic was a low-lying, hot nation and even its highest points were closer to hot, dry Appalachians than anything else. Mark's teleportation put the Liberty League, and Triakosia, down alongside a hastily-built military road at the edge of the Massif proper, the scene of the massacre. The CAR troops there were uniformed and armed, but it looked like with nothing more than rifles and machine guns. They seemed to recognize Triakosia straight off - and within the space of a few seconds, amid shouted orders in French, the weapons were aimed at the woman who was theoretically a prisoner against the Liberty League. 

 

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, it's all right!" called Mark, "She's with us." He knew Colonel Ngaoui's English was good enough to carry on a conversation, and of course the men there would remember his previous visit in Monsoon's company. "We're going up the road to investigate." The rifles lowered at that, rather quickly - the soldiers obviously knew what they were dealing with. Mark carried on a quick conversation with the mustachioed, slimly-built commander of the small force while Monsoon took over talking to the Liberty League - behind her the CAR troops opening up the pro-forma barricade they'd erected on the steep trail up the mountain that looked recently cleared - enough for Redbird, anyway. 

 

"The UNISON team has already pulled out to the capital city for diplomatic reasons," she said, her own rather diplomatic disdain just audible in her augmented voice as she spoke. "It'll be just us inside the mountain. None of you are afraid of closed spaces, are you?"

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"Would you like me to check for any traces before we begin?" Psyche was soft spoken. The formidable young psychic hadn't made any large entrances, likely counting on her psychic abilities to hide her from the paragon until the time came. Edge went to speak to the troops, the gaze she turned on Triakosia was kind, empathic. Alex had been in the woman's mind and while people could do strange and terrible things, she felt confident enough that this was outside of the young woman's nature to be unlikely in the extreme. 

 

"It won't take but a few minutes." She added, offering one gloved hand to the woman. "I think you'll be more comfortable if you know that your mind is still your own before we go in."

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Triakosia had a quick look around at the assembled heroes, it was in a certain perverted way flattering that they’d assembled so many A-class heroes in case she had gone bad. Before she could work out any kind of response she was teleported with the others. Well it was a different way to travel, though she preferred to travel under her own power though she could understand why they wouldn’t allow her travel alone.


“That’s probably for the best I want to know as much as anyone else if something is lodged in my brain.” she gave Psyche a reassuring smile as she offered the psychic hero her own hand.

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Redbird's current host vehicle shifted form again once they had a chance to see the rough road laid out ahead of them, tires unfolding in a way that shouldn't have been possible for the materials from which they appeared to be made, thickening along with the chassis that rose off of the ground to accommodate their new height. The cabin extended out over the protruding trunk to form a robust hatchback rear and exhaust pipes unfurled from under the front hood to stretch back and around, resulting in something that looked like one of the nearby military all-terrain vehicles rolled together with a roadster hot rod. As Midnight settled back behind the wheel the engine rumbled in a new, bass register and channels across the ATV's frame illuminated with crimson light, making the unearthly origin of the technology at work abundantly clear.

 

The black clad vigilante suspected most of the group would be just as happy to move about under their own, airborne power but he didn't have any plans to walk to their destination in the local heat. A less obvious benefit was the expanded room behind him, where equipment previously packed efficiently away had unfurled into a far more functional mobile laboratory. If psychic manipulation wasn't to blame for the mystery of the massacre then it would fall to more conventional detective work to provide them with answers.

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Cobalt Templar had taken the teleport in calm stride, years of practice being on that "ride" helping him. When they met the local soldiers, he'd stayed back and stayed quiet, just giving them respectful nods, otherwise staying with the group. When Monsoon mentioned "tight spaces", he shrugged noncommittally.

 

"I've got no personal problems with small spaces other than getting into them, but I suppose Phalanx here has a similar problem. Our delicate builds can be a handicap sometimes."

 

He smirked a bit at his own joke, though didn't expect much response. He seemed unconcerned with the heat of the area, still going about in his full-body full-armor costume. Today was not a day for gimmick-laden outfits, at least not before a fight (it was practically a requirement he use some of his artistic streak on his constructs in a fight). 

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Psyche didn't need the physical contact to establish the link - or permission - but she was well aware of the importance of both. Along with the light touch on Triakosia's fingers, the presence in her mind was palpable as Psyche did the mental equivalent of 'scuffing her feet' so the intrusion was noticeable. She was always keenly aware of the comfort levels of those around her and just how unnerving her powers could be. 

 

She took her time, a few long moments as she made sure to completely check over the woman's recent memories and for any of the tell tale marks of other psychic thumbprints. After a moment, her presence withdrew as she removed her hand.

 

"I feel confident in saying that you have neither been controlled against your will, nor had memories erased within recent memory. Nor was this terrible act committed by your hands," Psyche said simply as she laced her gloved fingers together and offering the good news first. Her hazel eyes turned first to Phalanx and then to the rest of the team, "However, I am also equally confident that your memories, your personality, have been - for lack of a better term - heavily scanned which would require significant ability and time, not to mention a certain subtlety. It isn't easy to do."

 

Psyche paused and then added, as if she considered this a grave violation of some sort, "I'm so sorry."

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Phalanx frowned at the news of Triakosias mind being so thoroughly invaded.  It did not bode well for any of them that psychic energies of such finesse and potency could be brought to bear by their foes.  Looking to Triakosia he nodded in silent support.  "I have no difficulties in enclosed spaces, thank you."  he replied to Monsoon in honest appreciation for her perceived concern.  

 

Turning his gaze then to the mountain itself he spent a long moment examining it before frowning slightly, "The tunnels are man made, and lined with material designed to prevent even myself or Triakosia from piercing it's secrets."  he informed them, "Construction is unusual, half rounded chambers with strange interconnects, all at the wrong angles for how most buildings are built." he offered with a shrug glancing to the far better traveled Wander and Midnight, "Don't know if any of that is more familiar to you?"  he suggested as perhaps it might give some clue what they faced despite his less than precise description.

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It was a long walk up the narrow trail to the iron door wedged firmly into the mountainside, Mark and Nina both unusually quiet as they made their way up there. No surprise, since Edge and Monsoon had been there for the initial discoveries. 

 

The interior of the mountain was indeed a bizarre place, a little intimidating even for veteran superheroes. Hastily-produced flashlights from Mark meant that everyone could at least see as they headed inside, but the surroundings were an alien sight at the best of times. A honeycomb of rooms carved out of the living rock of the mountain, the complex inside was structured more like an ant's nest than a human-built complex, with strange looping tunnels lined with smooth-sided metal, leading to semi-spherical rooms full of strange, burnt-out alien machinery and the unmistakable sights and sounds of old gore, surely more than could have been produced by the dead superheroes, but more than enough to match those of the dozens of missing from the nearby villages that Mark had mentioned. 

 

"The smell was bad when we found it," said Mark tersely, "and the bugs." There were only a few insects near the exterior door when they arrived at the pathway inside the mountain, as if they'd only recently arrived. "The central chamber's where we found most of the equipment. And the bodies." 

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Wander dropped back to the rear of the group as they walked, flashlight in one hand and bat in the other. In complete darkness, the soft glow of the Furion metals in the bat was especially noticeable. There was plenty about this situation to ping her danger senses, but something about being inside this cavern, enclosed, in the dark, was especially troubling. There were a lot of way something could sneak up on them in here, and having one hand full was not helpful. "Hey Mark, could you scare us up some overhead lighting?" she asked. "It'd be a lot easier to get around in here." 

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“Thank’s for that it’s good to know I’m not the cause of all this, at least not directly. But if I’m connected I’d still want to know who’s been using my form for such things.” she gave Psyche a smile, partly from relief and party from genuine someone believing she was innocent.

 

Triakosia’s vision also allowed her to penetrate the mountain and see inside as to what happened she’d seen worse as a soldier, after all her entire world had died at the Terminus hands, but it was never a pleasant thing to view.

 

“I’m not sure you much better being able to see what happened, some thing are better in the dark.”

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Phalanx stooped through the entrance and peered into the dark as he took the lead, "This wasn't built for humans."  he mused quietly giving voice to that which all of them likely recognized on some level.  "Proportions are all wrong and the angles don't make sense."  he theorized as they moved deeper into the complex.  

 

"But it's not active."  he guessed and looked to Midnight and Psyche, "Maybe something else moved in?"  he considered hoping someone more familiar with the investigative side of these endeavors might have better ideas.  

 

Keeping a wary eye he moved further into the complex ahead of his friends and teammates, "Better to know what we're dealing with I think, unpleasant as it may be."  He countered gently as he awaited better lighting.

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