Might be a bit long, cuz it's kind of like 2 issues in 1, but meh. I know I'd get comments about it being too short if I split it.
CBTF Headquarters, Several Hours After the Last Issue....
Captain Cooper twiddles his thumbs as he waits for Director Pfeifer to call him into his office. The Director and the Captain go way back, which is why Captain Cooper is a little irritated by being forced to wait. Only thing is, is that he doesn't know what he's going to say to the Director once he is called in. All he's thought about since the street fight with that carrier group is what the leader of the group looked like. He had more than enough time to get a good look at the leader's face, but... The bandages covered too much to make out anything.
The Director's secretary, Perry, leans over her desk and stares at the CBTF Captain awkwardly for a moment. "Director Pfeifer is ready to see you now, Captain Cooper." She finally comments.
"Alright, thanks." Cooper responds as he makes his way over to Pfeifer's office. While passing Perry's desks he notices a large platter with some kind of food on it. "Oh, what are these?" Cooper asks as he tries to figure out what they are himself.
"Lemon squares, Captain Cooper. I made them myself. Want one?" She responds, her eyes wide in anticipation of hearing what Cooper thinks of them.
"...Yeah, sure, I'll try one." The Captain answers hesitantly, evidently not a fan of lemon squares. He grabs one and turns back to the Director's office. He puts the lemon square in his mouth just before opening the door and gags from how sour they are. "God, I hate lemons." He mutters under his breath. Realizing he said that out loud he glances back quickly at Perry. She's staring at Cooper, but doesn't seem to have picked up on his opinion of them yet. "These are really good." Cooper lies with a mouthful of lemon as best as he can, and then quickly heads into Pfeifer's office. He can hear Perry yell thanks as he runs over to Pfeifer's garbage can and spits out the square and everything else he gagged up.
"What the hell?" Pfeifer stands up from his desk, surprised at the sudden outburst. "Wait, no. Let me guess. You tried Perry's lemon squares?"
Cooper nods. Pfeifer hands him a tissue which Cooper then uses to wipe his mouth and mustache dry with. "Yeah. I don't recommend them."
The Director laughs. "Figures. I don't know how anyone could like those things." Pfeifer remarks before sitting back down. "Take a seat, Coop." He directs Cooper as he gestures towards the seat in front of his desk. Cooper nods and then does so. "It's been a long time."
"Too long, Morris.... You still keep the Jameson in the bottom right drawer of your desk?" Cooper responds.
"Hah, sure do. I bet you could use a glass, Coop." Pfeifer answers.
"You got that right. Always could." The Captain takes a deep breath and scratches his mustache as the Director fills two glasses.
"So... I've heard that you believe the gang of carriers you ran into last night are somehow connected to these bombings that have had my phone ringing off the hook and people flooding my office all day. Is that true?"
"They were more of a terror cell than a gang, but yeah, for the most part that's exactly right. I was on my scheduled patrol with my squad when we ran into this large suspicious looking group of carriers. Naturally, we stopped to ask them some questions. I was looking them over as I asked them these questions, and I noticed how some of them had large black marks from a fire on their clothes, while others were all bandaged up, in casts, and a couple had some obvious physical burns. All the properties of people that were just near, or, in a large fire." Cooper responds.
"I see. Makes sense that you would think they're connected to the bombings. I would ask if you had anyone else to back up these statements, but... Well... I read the briefing. I'm, uh, I'm sorry for what happened to you and your men out there, Coop." Pfeifer remarks earnestly.
"Thank you, sir. It's appreciated." Cooper replies and then chugs down his drink. He slams it back onto the desk and the Director refills it.
Pfeifer seems almost taken back by the fact Cooper just called him sir, something he only ever does when they're around other people. He shakes it off and then continues the questions. "But I do have to ask... Could you identify the leader of these people so we could track him or her down?" Pfeifer asks.
Cooper takes a second to respond. "Nope, Pfeifer. I couldn't make out much from the bandages and such. All I can tell you is that it was a Caucasian male. Real tall, big guy. I'd say about six feet. Maybe 220 pounds. Age.... I'd say anywhere between mid thirties and late forties. And even then I have no idea for sure. But that's about all I can think of, really."
"It's alright, Coop." Pfeifer has been writing this all down. He pauses for a moment and looks up at Cooper. "We'll do the best with what we get. Just one last question, could you identify any of the leader's abilities? That way we might be able to track him if he ever shows up again."
"Oh, yeah. I'll never forget the show he put on. He used the, uh... Damn, I can't remember what it's called. It's the thing when you're able to move things with your mind. Tale.... Tool.... Tell something." Cooper answers.
"Oh, right. I think you're talking about telekinesis?" The Director responds.
"That's the one! The big guy, the leader had telekinesis. Put on a damn good show with it too. One of the other ones had some fire ability, too. That's about all I can remember, though. Happened too fast." Cooper replies. Pfeifer is nodding his head as he writes all that down. Cooper takes another swig of his drink. "...Morris.... With all due respect.... I want to be the one to take this guy down."
Pfeifer puts down his pencil and looks up at Cooper. He can see in his eyes that Cooper really wants this. "Alright, Coop. That's understandable. I'll see what I can do." Cooper puts his empty glass back on the desk, slides it away from him, and nods to Pfiefer signaling he's done with the Jameson.
"One more thing, Morris... If anyone is going to be taking this guy down, we're gonna have to have some kind of wild card to use against him. Someone on the inside, maybe. A spy. Perhaps you can get one of your Response kids in on it." Cooper comments and chuckles to himself a little.
"No." Pfeifer responds and chuckles. "No, they're far too recognizable to be able to pull off an espionage mission. You just try to find any lead you can on this terror cell. In the meantime, I'll come up with someone else."
Meanwhile in Kingville at the Command Center....
"So... How are things with you and Rive?" Blaze asks, genuinely concerned.
"I don't know." I respond plainly, focusing more on feeling the edge on my old army knife.
Blaze looks down at the ground. "Do... Do you think he was serious about leaving?" He pauses. "I mean, heh, he was joking right? There's no way he's leaving.... Right?"
My eyes move up from my knife and give Blaze an annoyed glare. "I don't know." Blaze's head drops.
"Is.. Is there something on your mind, Alex?" Blaze asks out of nowhere.
"I don't know." Blaze couldn't look more perturbed by my answer. I sigh. "I guess."
"What is it?" Blaze asks.
"Just something Rive said. About that Captain Cooper getting away in the middle of the fight. He definitely got a good look at us... I'm just worried we'll be getting a lot more trouble from the CBTF now. And I don't think we're ready." I respond as I sheathe my army knife.
"How aren't we ready? We've been training for a CBTF raid since.. Since the beginning almost."
"Only some of us have. Because only some of us could. What about all the carriers with passive abilities? We don't have weapons or armor for them to defend themselves with. Even the carriers with active abilities... What could they do if the CBTF decided against raiding and opted to just napalm the whole district? Or setup a blockade and starve us out? We don't have nearly enough supplies to last more than a couple weeks of a siege." I stop for a second, shaking my head as I realize how badly I've lead these people so far. I've been so caught up in my own vengeance I haven't even given a single thought to the people in this camp. "It's pitiful." I mutter to myself, regarding my leadership ability. "Sometime over the next couple weeks I'm going to check out the outposts we've setup. Make sure they're up and running. And that they've still got their fires going to confuse any thermal scans the CBTF might try to run."
"I'll go to the outposts and check everything out. You just need to focus on finding weapons and supplies." Blaze replies confidently. "I've always wanted to check out the outposts anyway."
"Hah. Thanks." But then the other thing that's been bothering me pops into my mind. "What do you think?"
"About what?" Blaze questions.
"Rive's argument. That I've become more cruel recently." I respond. "Be honest... You won't be in any trouble if you agree."
"I... I don't know. I mean, yeah, recently you do seem to have, uh, gotten darker. I understood when you enjoyed killing the CBTF and the camps' scientists, but I didn't really understand how or why you enjoyed killing the teens. But I'm not as concerned about that as... No...Never mind."
"As what?" I ask curiously. "Just say it."
Blaze hesitates to answer. "....As the arguments you've been having with yourself." I shoot him a flabbergasted look. "It's happened a lot recently. Even with those teens, you were yelling at yourself to kill them, man. It was just creepy."
"Wha... What?" Then it hits me. "OH, now I know what you're talking about. I've been telling you and Rive for weeks now, there's this shadowy creepy thing that'll appear out of nowhere. I don't know who or what he is, where he came from, or what he wants, but that's who I've been talking to."
"No one else ever sees this 'shadow', except you. No one else ever hears this 'shadow', except you. But whatever. I believe you. It's just creepy as hell." Blaze responds before getting up to head out.
"Wait, Blaze, don't go yet. I've got a few questions still." The video of the Response flashes into my mind. I mean, hey, I think the idea of superheroes is so stupid it's funny, but if it gets the public on our side I'm on board. "Is there anything else we missed while we were in Devil's Den?"
"Turns out that crazy chick that almost blew our whole operation in the slums is actually a vigilante going by the name of Peacekeeper. That video of the Response was the main thing though. But there's been a little development on that..." Blaze responds.
"... And that is?" I'm almost afraid to ask.
"Well... The Response might just be a political stunt by the CBTF to get public opinion up on their side. Basically, we'll just look like terrorists now cuz the public is supposedly becoming more accepting of carriers due to this 'Response'."
..... I have no words. "Oh boy... This could get ugly real fast. Go get Nemesis. We need to start planning our next move tonight."
"Isn't it too soon to make another move already?" Blaze asks.
"Of course. We won't make another move for a few weeks. We just need to plan it all out now. It's a rocky road from this point forward. We need to be extra careful where we step."
"Rive won't like this." Blaze responds before heading out.
"The boy is right, Alex." The Shadow takes form behind me. "Rive will be a problem. As will this... Response."
"What are you trying to say?" I ask, although I'm pretty sure I already know the answer.
"If they become a problem, they'll need to be taken care of." The Shadow responds. I glare at him.
"I've told you before, I'll never kill Rive. If it comes to it, I'll have him leave. But I'm not killing one of the only friends I have left."
"And the Response?" The Shadow persists.
"If they become a real threat... Yeah, of course, I'll have to take care of them." I respond.
"Even Brooks?" The Shadow questions yet again. I hadn't even thought about Mark being on that team. But... I can't hurt Mark. For Daisy's sake... I can't. "Even Brooks, Alex?"
"Tell you what, buddy. Once you grow a set and get the balls to either take a physical form and let me scan your mind or you just flat out tell me your story, who you are, what you want, and so on.... I'll take care of all of them." I pause for a second. "Even Brooks." I finish mockingly.
The Shadow remains silent. "Well would you look at that. You finally don't have anything to say. What a time to be alive." Then I proceed to walk out of the tent. Finally getting my chance to leave the Shadow alone in the darkness instead of the other way around.
Author's Notes: Not an action packed issue again, but all this drama and talk will pay off in the end. The water has to be heated for it to boil! Plus, I think the development is necessary. Hope you enjoy it.