A lot of people would turn a ragtag team of liberated super slaves into a team to get revenge on the people who kidnapped the and stuck a bomb collar on them. The Exemplars believe in vetting folks or letting people go about their lives. There’s only room for one loose trigger around here. Medusa knows she can trust my skills and relative professionalism.
The Exemplars are still checking through the faces and names I got from my undercover auction attendance. But I didn’t sign up just to look pretty and get photographs. I was rewarded when Medusa gave me a job to go in after someone who bought a bunch of supers at the auction. Pretty normal guy, though head some really pretentious glasses. That could just be my judgment. I’m sure the ones with no bottom to the frame look good on most people, just not a human trafficker. There’s probably a lesson there about inner beauty.
It didn’t help that the pulled up like four main houses for the guy. I wanted the charming cottage in California wine country, but they decided to have me go for a house on Martha’s Vineyard. Guy really likes stuff related to wine, I guess.
It was a nice place, isolated in its own walled compound. I didn’t see any guard, which meant that this guy was really good about security, or really bad. They could have noticed the flyer Decimal and I landed in. The guy had an unoccupied helipad, so we settled in there.
“The other teams are beginning their raids,” Decimal informed me. He wore Exemplar standard-issue powered armor. In lieu of the standard mounted weapons was an SMG barrel on his left arm, and a long rifle barrel on the right. I slipped out to check the rooftop access while Decimal locked the Flyer. Unlock this guy, Migton Benfrike the Third, Decimal has a normal name and is better at locking doors. Decimal followed after, waiting while I cleared things. I was invisible. He was visible.
His cameras subtle, but not as invisible. They went out one by one. I just tore them off the wall. I even checked the bedroom, which is where I found the monitor bank. I messed around with it and froze it. Might sound weird if no one’s watching, but I figured it would also mess with someone figuring out what happened if this house happened to be a bust. “All cameras down,” I reported to Decimal.
“Good. I’m not seeing any signs of people so far,” he responded.
“And this is the bedroom. Or a bedroom. I’m assuming it’s the main one because it has the security monitors. It’s very clean, though. Bed’s made. No immediate sign of certain activities.”
“Ha. Surprised you’re a prude,” he said. I checked the desk and bedroom for anything else that might be linked to all of this.
“He bought people. Not exactly prudish to dislike the implications of that if you find a pair of handcuffs in the bedroom,” I reminded him. I left there and headed down stairs after him, taking a shortcut by jumping out and reaching out with nanomachine tentacles to guide and soften my fall. “Anything showing on thermal?”
“Nothing. You?” he answered.
“Nope. I’m checking for a basement door. These people always have the weird shit in the basement.”
“You should help me cover the other wing.”
Well I did. Because I’m a team player. An annoyed one. But as soon as I found my basement door, I headed down there and the we got to the good stuff. “I was right, he’s got the freaky shit down here.” I pinged the doorway for Decimal to find through his HUD’s augmented reality.
What I’d found was a big case of thick, reinforced glass or transparent aluminum. A young man in a bomb collar was in there. Half the case’s bottom was a platform, the other half was a set of saws in motion. The guy in the bomb collar had one leg affixed to the platform by a metal restraint bolted to it. The other was chained to be held up above the saws, as if he was stepping off a cliff. On the outside of the case was a sign: “The Fool”
“This guy’s got a thing for tarot cards,” I told Decimal. The next one in line was a man forced to hold a candle up, the chains digging into the skin of his arm. He looked out at me with wide eyes, unable to lower an arm that had to be numb by now. Instead of a baton, he held a candle that dripped hot wax onto his arm. He was forced to stand, with metal braces locking his legs in the upright position. “And maybe something about torturing supers.”
I left the Fool and the Magician behind and headed further down this little gallery. It ended after The Emperor, the fourth in the Major Arcana. There were twenty-one cases in all, but the ones after the Emperor had no one in them and were in varying stages of set-up. At the end of this macabre gallery was a door, with screaming. Next up would be the Hierophant, with a couple of fingers pointed skyward, a fancy crown, and a fancy cross. “He’s down here,” I informed Decimal, and took off into a run.
I burst through the door to find our target standing, watching, as a couple of guys in hazmat suits were drilling into the hands of a super in a bomb collar who screamed. The three of them turned at once, one raising a cross wrapped in barbed wire.
I let them see me. I wanted them to know something was coming. Migton’s first reaction was to reach for a small table nearby with one of the bomb remotes on it. A nanite tentacle took his hand off and then formed a protective dome over the remote.
“Faaaaaaack! Kill this cunt!” Migton called out.
The workers looked hesitant, but must have remembered just what they got caught in the middle of. One ran at me with drill in hand. He went down with a punch that cracked his sternum. The other tried to clobber me with the cross. I grabbed his hand, squeezed it, then twisted him and threw him hard against the wall. I turned back to Migton, stepping closer. The torturer with the cross stood back up and I backhanded him with an arm made of metal plates and nanomachines.
Migton grimaced, then put both his arms up. “I surrender! Can’t kill a surrendering man, ha!”
I suppose I’m a tiny bit of a hypocrite, talking about change and leaving people alive. I have this problem with peace forces running roughshod over people’s lives. Part of the reason I’m so eager about this is the way these bastards are just private people kidnapping villains unaccountably. Or that’s how it started before all the slavery started up.
I suppose I should try harder to be the change I want to see in the world.
Decimal caught up in time to see me helping up the wounded supervillain and checking him over with my little nanites. Others were roaming over the exhibits to try and ease people out of the position they were in.
“Jesus, what happened in here?” Decimal was looking at the remains of Migton.
I shrugged, finishing tying up one of the downed torturers. “He tried to put up a fight and slipped.”
“Uh huh.” There were an awful lot of chains and drills involved for a simple slip and fall. It looked like a dentist visit gone wrong. Decimal opened a channel through the flyer. “This is the Psychopomp team. We’re going to need medics here, trauma and surgical teams on standby. We have five recovered supers. Gecko’s patching now.”
After that, he turned to me, “Come on, let’s get these guys up in the Flyer and get it moved. We should leave them a way to get in.”
“Yeah, but I’m coming back down here,” I told him, throwing the pair of torturers over my shoulder.
I cut into those displays while the medical teams were on the way. The nanites got in easily; they were designed to let air in and let some waste out. I could even handle the injuries from screws, nails, chains, and forced posing for days. The Fool’s leg was in bad shape. Their minds were worse and that psychological stuff is a mystery to me as well. I’m far more likely to cause mental trauma than end it.
I called up Sam. Sam Hain, Max’s henchwoman who had a bizarre desire to date me. “Hey,” I said.
“Rough day?” her voice lost the happy tone and edged toward concern.
“Oh, the usual. Dealing with something that could have been the aftermath of something I pulled, making me feel like being so murderous was the right choice after all.”
She thought on that for a moment. “The sheepdog’s still cousin to the wolves and coyotes.” She coughed. “Sorry, this is strong shit I’m smoking.”
“It doesn’t taste so good in a kiss, either,” I teased.
“Get over here in one of your bodies and say that to my face.” She laughed. “You’re fine. Don’t forget to rob while you hobnob, girl.”
I rolled my eyes, but it was a good idea. Migton can’t take it with him anymore. Sure, some of it was in stocks and bonds, but I can liquidate those. I have enough of his voice. I also found a private contact number for Mr. Fawk.
I gave him a call, disguising my voice and letting him talk first. “Mr. Benfrike, how lovely to hear from you again.”
“Thank you, thank you. I have a shortage on my hands and a lot of money to burn.”
“You’ve solved your transparency problem?”
I grinned. “Correct, we don’t need to worry about this getting out anymore.” It was going to get out. Medusa’s people were meticulously cataloging everything for reasons ranging from blackmail to blowing this shit wide open and forcing people to do something about it.
“I will be back in town in a few days. We should meet and discuss business ahead of the next auction,” Mr. Fawk said.
“Cautious as ever. Good. Send me the details,” I told him. I hung up and looked to one of the drills nearby. Impressive hardware. Good for bones, if I even want to nab Fawk. And I sent a message to Medusa. “Better not to send me on any of these where you want folks alive.”
“I hve perfect 1 for u,” she said in her terrible texting. I think she’s getting worse.