After the first hour of me singing to myself in my cell, the deputies of Ruby, Arizona seemed to treat it like a bit of a game. They weren’t listening, so they just had to put up with the complaints, screams really, of the prisoners in adjacent cells. They wanted to keep us separate after the whole “shooting up the bar and street” incident, but they weren’t opposed to verbal sniping and other ways of making us wear each other down. I think they underestimate my capacity to sing despite people not liking the song.
I read that I was bad at it, but I didn’t quite understand that until I heard the grown men on either side of me break down and weep. Eventually, they fetched me for interrogation. They sat me down in a little room with the mirror they can see through, and tried to ask me questions.
“Help us out here,” asked the deputy who brought me in. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and sat her hat off to the side so she could act like she was talking to me as a person instead of as my captor. “We don’t have any ID on you. That name you gave us, Tripura? Not in our system. Your fringerprints fucked with our system. Eah pair of fingers gave different results. Since I don’t have a real name for you, should I call you Tupac, Elvis, George Carlin, Asa Akira, or Lee Harvey Oswald?”
I set my elbows on the table and looked her in the eye. She had pretty eyes. “What about the others?”
“We didn’t check your second pair of hands. One of them doesn’t have enough fingers. I don’t know a lot about supers, but you don’t get new fingerprints when you get superpowers.”
“Honey,” I said, wiggling my eyebrows, “You wouldn’t believe what a super can do when she’s got this many fingers to work with.” I raised the three unmaimed hands to show off some jazz hands.
“Put those away before I handcuff them under your ass,” she said. “It takes more to seduce me than a pretty face and extra digits.”
“Like what?” I asked, running a finger over the tabletop in a spiral and pretending to care what she said. Women, am I right?
“A penis,” she said. “I doubt you can pull that off.”
I smiled. “Wouldn’t be the first penis I pulled off. So what you’re saying is, you’re looking for a threesome?”
She coughed. “Whatever I’m looking for, I don’t want it from you. Who are you?”
Something felt familiar in my mind. “What do you want?” I asked, wondering if that was it. Wasn’t that in my blog somewhere?
“I want to know you are,” she asserted.
“I’m the excuse you give when you cannot follow the rules,” I said, something about that seeming right too.
“That’s nice, but how about a name?”
“Tripura Sundari. That’s who I am right now.”
“Right now? How about who you are when you’re at home?” she asked, fidgeting.
“Any time, really, not just at home. I know that I used to be a pretty bad person. But without those memories, am I even the same person? My capability isn’t the same, but neither are my feelings. I think I hate fewer people, but I care about fewer people too. As the dust-up in the street shows, some things are still instinctual and necessary. And what kind of a place is it that a woman can need to know how to kill people just for stopping in town?” I turned from my ponderings to glare at her. Maybe the hate isn’t there, but the capability still is. The sense of injustice.
“They claim you fired first,” she said.
I burst out laughing, then stopped when I saw she had a straight face. “Uh huh. Without any guns, I fired first.”
“You were witnessed with the bartender’s shotgun and the sheriff’s revolver,” she said.
“Any witnesses saying how I got those?” I asked, settling back in the chair and crossing my legs.
“You clawed out the bartender’s throat, took the shotgun, shot the sheriff, then came out shooting.”
“At a bunch of people with guns who just so happened to have their rifles and machine guns on them that I’m pretty sure the bartender called there because he didn’t like my skin tone. And rather than shoot at me, with all my camo and bulletproof vest on,” I spread my arms to show off the dress, “they shot at the bar, somehow putting chemicals on the bartender’s hands to make it look as if he fired his shotgun.”
“That’s a claim we can investigate, but we would like your cooperation. We don’t even know your name.”
I leaned forward all conspiratorially and waved her in close. She humored me… some. She wasn’t getting too close to me. So I closed the rest of the distance suddenly and grabbed her by the lapel, pulling her toward me. I scowled at her and narrowed my eyes as they stared into hers. “I’m Batman!”
That’s as far as it went, but they did help themselves to a bit of brutality despite me letting her go. That’s why, when deputies went to lead me out, I accidentally knocked my head on someone’s baton behind me. Part of me wanted to take it off him and show him how to find the anal G-spot.Which is difficult, because I now don’t remember where it is. He got a couple hits in before I caught it and tossed it to the side. I stared “Kill me, or don’t bother hitting me in the first place.”
When they walked me back down to the cells, I noticed the guys on my way were gone. “What happened to the others? Medical aid? Bleeding eyes?”
The deputy closed the cell door on me, then informed me, “They made bail. Enjoy your stay.”
Another day, another night in jail. I figured it’d be useful to stay here until Venus finally showed up. Any minute now, I’m sure. I can make bail any time I want if it comes down to it. There’s a lot I don’t remember, but I figured out my laser eye. I even got some practice in that night, carving a message into the ceiling of the cell. “Brooks was here.”
My patience was rewarded the next day when I was woken up at the ass crack of 8 AM, when no reasonable person’s eyes should be open. “Wake up! Your lawyer’s here. God knows how he found you.” Another deputy led me up there, though this guy didn’t resort to a cheap shot with his baton to motivate me. Just a couple pairs of handcuffs.
The lawyer wasn’t who I was expecting. I had photos and video of Venus. A lot of photos and videos. I’m fairly certain I photoshopped some of these, too. One with Venus posing naked on a beach. One with Venus touching her toes to her head, also nude. One with Venus in a gang bang. One with Venus and a woman with a scaley skin condit- oh, nevermind, that’s probably from spying on her. But they weren’t all explicit, like this one with Venus in a wedding dress standing next to a picture of my old armor under an arch with lots of white and yellow flowers woven into it.
Anyway, I had pictures of her, and pictures of a lot of others associated with Master Academy. I didn’t recognize the dark-skinned guy with the long black hair and the grey suit and bolo tie. The original academy is still in California, so maybe they sent someone from there? Still bugged me though. I annoy Venus to death, but it sounds like she’s the only hero trusted with me. Whoever he was, the guy had seen some sort of action. He had this scar down the right side of his face. All the way, like down from the side of his forehead, through his eyebrow, down his cheek, and then stopping at the jaw line. He smiled as he saw me. “Good to see you again, Ms. Sundari. It’s alright, I’ll clear this up in no time.” He looked to the deputy who fetched me. “Where may we have a private conversation?”
We were shown to a private room off to the side. A nicer looking room than they use for interrogation. The table and chairs here weren’t the bare minimum of functionality. Once the door closed, the man turned to me. “Ready to go, Sundari?”
“Who are you?” I asked.
He whipped out a business card for me that named him as “Sam Teotl, Attorney at Law” with some interesting calligraphy on it that formed an embossed image of a three rabbits chasing each other around in a circle in such a way that they all had two ears even though there were only three separate ears.
The Three Hares had found me first.
He reached down and tore my handcuff chains apart. “Damn humanity. My parents and grandparents sacrificed for them, and this is how they repay us. I envy you for being able to live completely apart from them.”
“What about them?” I asked, nodding toward the cops.
“No human is worth one of us,” he said.
I saw something else out there, though. A bald man with a goatee with a bulge or two from the inside of his jacket. He had another man with him, grey-haired and grey-stubbled, holding a briefcase. I’d have thought they were Master Academy too, but Master Academy heroes don’t carry guns. Unless it’s a hero with gadgets, I suppose. Then the one with the briefcase turned his had while they talked to the desk sergeant and I caught a glimpse of a Nordic rune.
If they’re Master Academy, then I think Venus really picked the wrong pair to send to pick me up. The desk sergeant, desk deputy, whatever their rank the office’s secretary, he pointed back to the room I was in and said something to the deputy who brought me to the Hare.
“We’re made,” I told him.
He cracked his knuckles. “Let me handle this.” He stepped out of the room, asking them, “Is something the matter, gentlemen?”
I followed after, which prompted these two to nod to each other. The bald one pulled out his gun and aimed it at me while the one with the briefcase popped it open and struggled to pull something out. The bald guy didn’t get a chance to fire before he dropped the gun and grasped at his throat. A bunch of leaves sprouted from his mouth, then his body shuddered as more grew from his eyes and ears.
His friend dropped his case and his sawed-off shotgun before Sam Teotl blew something that looked like dust at his face. The man gasped and began to swell up like an allergic reaction on steroids. He turned to me, “Let’s go.” I stepped past both the newly-growing corn plant and the swelling man. I heard a cop shout for us to “Freeze!” but I think Sam handled him. I know he was a few steps behind me when I got outside.
Where I saw a tanned beauty with dark hair getting out of a car. She was in civilian clothes, but I’d seen parts of her she’d only shown to Psychsaur. Venus looked at my arms and asked, “Gecko?”
“Boopsie! Quick, we need to get the fuck out of here.” I heard gunshots behind me as Sam continued having his way with the deputies. I ran over and threw myself into the passenger seat. I’d reached over and got the engine running again before Venus was even fully inside.
“What’s going on in there?” she asked.
“Drive first, questions about the Hare guy who just tried to recapture me later!” I yelled.
I swear I could see a man step out of the sheriff’s office and stare at the back of the car before we lost sight of that part of town. At my insistence, Venus got us the fuck out of there and didn’t stop until we were halfway to Phoenix, which was supposedly the fastest way back to California. She was a little less compliant when the first thing I did after we stopped was grab her and hug.
“Was it really that bad?” she asked.
“I’ll tell you after the nanites,” I said, releasing a laugh of relief.
She took my hand and looked at it. “Can it wait until we get to the Academy?”
“It’s not my hand I need help with,” I told her.
She looked me over. “What’s wrong?”
Oh fuck it. Memory-me better be more right about loving her than he is about hating and distrusting her. “You know what Unity is, right?”
She nodded. “The drug that keeps people from remembering anything. The Claw used it.”
“The Three Hares used it on me,” I told her. “Part of my brain is on hard drive in there, and I have access to my blog, so-”
She recoiled, mouth open before responding. “You keep a blog? Troubleshooter never found it.”
“Not the time, Venus. I’m off my game without my memories, and we have a god after us.”