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Max_Writer

Superworld: Fire and Ice Session Three Part 1 - Interrogating Super Villains

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

(After playing the original Superworld scenario “Fire and Ice” from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday with Kyle Matheson, Aaron Scott, Joey Scott, and James Brown.)

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, Absolem’s Riddle vanished after the battle with The Flamer and Absolute Zero as did Protean, leaving Arclight and Edward at the scene with Doug the Pug. Arclight flew Edward to a nearby roof. He realized the police would probably let them talk to the super villains they’d captured. He looked at the frigid gun Edward had taken from Absolute Zero and then called Tinker on his cell phone.

“What d’you want?” Tinker answered.

“Uh … wow … so you’re actually in town?” Arclight said.

“I-I’ve been in town this whole time,” Tinker said.

“Uh … yeah … well, we just, like, totally busted some super villains, man,” Arclight said.

“That’s cool!”

“Oh.”

“What d’you want?”

“Uh … yeah, okay, so I got this gun that I’d like for you to look at.”

“Another gun?”

“Yeah, it’s a weird one though, and I think I kind of want to use it with my super powers.”

“God, they’re all weird. What’s up with this one?”

“It freezes people.”

“Ah … cool. Ha … ha.”

Arclight laughed.

“So, yeah, we should meet up at … uh … somewhere and I can show you this gun and … uh … I think Edward might have something for you too, I don’t know,” Arclight said.

“Well, if you bring it by my place, I can check it out here,” Tinker said.

“Okay,” Arclight said. “Where do you live?”

Tinker gave him his address and Arclight put it into his phone, then set it up on the GPS.

“Okay, I’m going to go get Edward,” Arclight said. “We’ll be there in a bit.”

He hung up the phone.

“You wanna go see Tinker?” he asked Edward.

“Sure,” Edward said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said.

“Who’s Tinker?” Doug said.

“You know Tinker,” Arclight said.

“Oh yeah, that leather guy,” Doug said.

“Yeah. Yeah, the really smart guy.”

“Is he smart?”

“Yeah, he’s smarter than me and you.”

“He didn’t seem to be.”

“He’s smarter than us.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh well. Let’s go!”

Doug flew off in the wrong direction. Arclight picked up Edward and they flew after Doug, calling for him. They eventually got to Tinker’s two-story apartment building in a lower-class part of town. They walked up the stairs to the balcony above. Arclight tried to open the door. Then he knocked.

Oh, for ****’s sake, Tinker thought inside the apartment.

He went to let them in. As soon as he saw it was Arclight, he turned and went back down the hallway to the extra bedroom where he did all his work. Doug bounded into the room, following him. Arclight and Edward followed as well.

“Hey man,” Arclight said. “So, here it is.”

He took out a large gun that appeared to be made out of plastic. It was a dark blue and thickened at the barrel. A single dial, turned all the way to the right, was on the back of the weapon. It had 10 little marks around it. A lighter blue plastic area was on the top of the weapon and seemed to glow slightly, pulsing. It was cold to the touch. Tinker figured it had to be insulated somehow.

“I don’t know how to reload it,” Arclight said.

“So, this freezes stuff?” Tinker asked.

“Yeah,” Edward said.

“Have you used it?” Tinker asked.

“Yeah, it freezes people,” Arclight said.

“Like a gun?” Tinker asked.

“Yeah,” Edward said.

“Jesus,” Tinker said.

“Edward used it!” Doug said.

“I used it too,” Arclight said.

“I used it too,” Edward said.

“When you fire it, is it a liquid? Is it a solid? Is it a gas?” Tinker asked.

Arclight explained a beam came out that froze stuff. It almost looked like a solid beam of ice, but when the trigger was released, the beam disappeared and the ice remained on the target. He told the man he could shoot it if he wanted. Tinker lit a cigarette, decided they would, and suggested taking it back behind the building to see how it worked. Both Arclight and Doug cheered.

They walked behind the apartment building where there was a vacant lot where the kids in the neighborhood played baseball, using whatever they could find for bases. A few Hispanic youths all wearing the same blue and green colors were standing in one corner of the lot, smoking cigarettes, or something.

“Vamanos!” Tinker yelled at them.

Arclight glowed and flexed his muscles. Some of them put their hands into their pockets and one crossed his arms.

“Yo, homes, we ain’t goin’ nowhere, man,” he said.

“Man, that’s Arclight, man,” one of them hissed to another. “He’s that super guy.”

“You a super man?” the youth with the crossed arms said. “You got super powers?”

“Yeah, we’re getting ready to shoot a gun,” Arclight said.

“You gonna shoot it at us, man?” the boy said.

“No, well …” Arclight said. “No. But maybe move.”

The youths looked at him and Edward and then left reluctantly, almost as if they were doing them a favor by moving at all.

“Don’t you mess with us, man!” one of them yelled as they left.

There were a few bottles on the ground and they could smell marijuana in the air. An empty plastic Ziploc bag lay where the youths had been standing.

Tinker pointed the frigid gun at one of the bottles and pulled the trigger. Though there was no recoil, the weapon made a really loud noise as a beam of what appeared to be solid ice burst from the weapon and struck a bottle, encasing it quickly in ice. By the time Tinker let off the trigger, it had formed a cocoon a couple feet across. Arclight picked up the ice ball and laughed.

“It’s cold,” he said.

He tossed it to Edward, who caught it. It was very cold.

“That’s a weird gun, huh?” Arclight said to Tinker.

“Is the ice stronger than normal ice?” Tinker asked.

“I don’t know,” Edward said. “Let’s find out.”

He dropped the ice ball and started smashing it with the rock, as did Arclight. The ice was slowly chipped away but didn’t appear to have any more strength than regular ice. Then Arclight put down the rock and punched the ice, breaking a big chunk off it.

“Man, that was all I had!” Arclight said. “This ice is really strong. That’s why I want to use it.”

“It’s not that strong,” Edward said.

Tinker turned the knob all the way in the other direction. He fired at another bottle and the loud blast missed it, striking a rock next to it. Frost formed on the rock but no ice formed on it. However, it did crack and break in half.

“I thought I was going to turn down the intensity,” Tinker said. “But what I think I did was turn it up.”

“Ah, yeah,” Arclight said, like he knew what he was talking about.

“Did he … do that to you guys?” Tinker asked.

“We did it to him,” Arclight said. “We just turned the dial until it wouldn’t turn anymore and then we just shot him.”

“We kind of got pissed,” Edward said.

“Did he get encased in ice or did he freeze and break?” Tinker asked.

“Uh … he’s encased right now, actually,” Arclight said.

“So, he’s probably dead,” Tinker said.

“That’s … I don’t like killing people,” Arclight said. “I hope that’s not what happened.”

“Meh,” Edward shrugged.

“Edward!” Arclight said. “He might be all right.”

“He was still alive when we left,” Edward said.

“All right,” Tinker said.

“Edward bit him,” Arclight said.

“He froze me, like, twice,” Edward said.

“You still bit someone!” Arclight said.

“So?” Edward said.

“You’re not supposed to bite, Edward,” Arclight said. “So, where do you think it gets its power source from?”

“I don’t know,” Tinker admitted. “The only thing that I can think of that super-cools right now is Freon, but there is no way that this gun has enough of it to do this kind of output.”

“Magic,” Edward said.

“Magic?” Arclight said.

“Magic,” Edward said.

“Um … I don’t know,” Tinker said. “I’ve been looking at guns for way too long.”

“I mean, I can just use it until it runs out,” Arclight said.

“Well, I mean, we don’t know what’s going to happen when it runs out,” Tinker said.

“It could explode,” Edward said.

“It might explode,” Tinker said. “I mean, unless you want it, it’s yours, but that’s how it works.”

“Well, technically it’s Edward’s,” Arclight said. “But you gave it to me for my birthday, right?”

“Do the cops know we have this?” Edward asked.

“No,” Arclight said.

“Shhh,” Tinker said.

“They don’t?” Edward said.

“I’ll talk to the chief about it later,” Arclight said. “It doesn’t matter.”

“He doesn’t know?” Edward said.

They discussed Absolute Zero telling the police his gun had been taken.

Tinker looked at the frigid gun and thought about the alien weapon he’d been examining. He had figured out it used a single atom of anti-matter for power but didn’t know how to get more. He guessed the anti-matter was kept in the weapon in some kind of magnetic bottle. He was certain the weapon gave off a single and so he’d made, essentially, a jamming device to keep it from getting out. The device had, at first, covered a large area, most of his apartment in fact. However, he was unsure how a cell phone signal might compromise the field, meaning he had been ignoring his phone. Just that night, however, he’d refined the field so it only covered the weapon, meaning he felt able to answer his cell phone again.

I’ve been looking at guns for two long, so I’m going to take a break, he thought. I need to do something else because I’m going crazy.

He handed the frigid gun back to Arclight and told him how it worked, also advising him to be careful. He noted if the dial was turned all the way one direction, it encased an object in ice whereas if turned the other way, it froze the object itself. Edward suggested labeling it.

“Doug, did you catch all that?” Arclight said.

“If you turn it, it turns to ice,” Doug said.

“Oh, Jesus,” Tinker muttered.

“And if you turn it the other way, it turns it to other ice,” Doug said.

“Ah, two ice,” Arclight said, knowingly.

“Jesus,” Tinker muttered again. “Here, give it back.”

“Huh?” Arclight said as Tinker took it from him.

“I’m going to label this gun,” Tinker said.

He took out a small label maker and put labels on either side. One side said “ice ball” and the other said “ice object.” He put them on the gun and handed it back to Arclight.

“Okay …” the man said.

There’s no way he could get this wrong, Tinker erroneously thought.

“So, what are we doing?” Tinker said.

“Well, I think we should probably go interrogate the people we caught tonight,” Arclight said. “I mean, it is a little late. Are you good? Do you need some sleep?”

Tinker said he didn’t as he’d been sitting for a while.

“I’ll just go talk to my buddy the chief and he’ll probably just let us interrogate,” Arclight said. “He’s always pretty accepting of these things.”

They decided to meet at the police station. Tinker ran back to his apartment to change into his super outfit.

“So, Edward, while he’s changing … I’ve been thinking,” Arclight said. “When are you going to start showing yourself to the public, because it’s really bothering me that you don’t.”

“Why is that bothering you?” Edward asked.

“Because … I do it, and you should to,” Arclight said.

“You’re not running from people,” Edward said.

“You’re running from people? Wait. What? Who are you running from?”

“I mean … there’s a reason I’m standing on two feet with this suit on.”

“Because you have really strong legs.”

“Yeah.”

“And you don’t need the other two for walking like other gators.”

“The suit allows me to do that.”

“Crocodile,” Doug said. “He’s a crocodile.”

“Oh,” Arclight said. “Crocodile. I’m sorry. I hope that didn’t offend you.”

“It does but it’s okay,” Edward said.

“Don’t bite me,” Arclight said.

“I’ve gotten used to it by now,” Edward said.

“We animals, intelligent animals, have to stick together,” Doug said.

“Right!” Edward said.

He and Edward fist-bumped.

“But you don’t have to run from them,” Arclight said. “We can handle them when they find you.”

“I don’t know that,” Edward said.

“You know!” Doug said. “You got Doug the Pug on your side! Yeah!”

“Undefeated,” Arclight said.

“And Arclight!” Doug said. “His sidekick! No, I’m just kidding! I’m kidding!”

“Aw,” Arclight said.

Doug ran over and nuzzled the man, licking him.

“Good one, Doug,” Arclight said. “But yeah, we can handle it. It’s not a problem. But you should really start working on your interview skills for the public.”

“My interview skills?” Edward said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said. “You gotta get in front of the camera or else nobody knows who you are and that sucks, right?”

“I don’t really need people to know who I am,” Edward said.

“Why?” Arclight said. “It’s so cool when they ask for your autograph.”

Tinker walked back over.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Arclight whispered to Edward.

They headed off to the police station, Arclight flying with Edward and Tinker driving there on his motorcycle. Arclight and Edward arrived first but Tinker got there soon after. Arclight ended up talking to Sgt. Leroy Smith, a black, heavyset man with a mustache. Arclight had talked to him before.

“Leroy, what’s up, my man?” Arclight said to him.

“What do you need Arclight?” Sgt. Smith said.

“Well, you got those two guys up in some cells for us, right?” Arclight said.

“Right, they’ve been taken up to the Exotics Detention Facility,” Sgt. Smith said.

“Yeah, I’d like to interrogate ‘em, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t think the chief’ll care.”

“Yeah, I don’t either.”

“They’re being processed. They might be done.”

“Okay.”

“You know where it is?”

“Yeah, I know where it is. They’re the only two, right? There’s no more exotics are there?”

“The Gentleman is in there.”

“The Gentleman as well.”

“He is incommunicado though. They’re not allowing anyone to talk to him because−”

“Of his powers.”

“−of his powers. Yeah.”

“Exactly.”

“Yeah, they go robots or something feeding him and he’s in a cell buried a couple hundred feet down or something.”

“Good.”

“I don’t know.”

“Good.”

“At least until his indictment next month.”

“So, we’re not allowed to see him?” Edward asked.

“They talk to him with cameras,” Sgt. Smith said. “They can’t talk to him face to face because they’re afraid he’ll use … they’re trying to assess what he can do exactly. He’s not being helpful.”

Arclight noticed Sgt. Smith had a wedding ring.

“How’s the wife?” he asked. “She doing all right?”

“Loretta?” Sgt. Smith said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said.

Sgt. Smith started talking about Loretta. He obviously loved her but it sounded like she ran the family. He continued to chat away about the woman. Arclight just wanted to make small talk but found himself drawn into this conversation. He motioned vaguely for Edward to go outside. The crocodile misunderstood the motion so wandered into the police station.

* * *

Edward wandered around the police station for several minutes, lost. Eventually, a young, skinny police officer stopped him.

“Can we … can I … who are you?” he said.

“Where are the exotics at?” Edward said.

“Aren’t you one?” the police officer said. “Aren’t you an exotic?”

“Where are the prisoner exotics at?” Edward asked.

“Oh, they’re at the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Criminal Exotics Holding Facility. That’s up on the north side of town.”

“Oh. So, not here.”

“No. Not here. Who are you?”

“Huh. I’m … Edward.”

“Okay. Are you with Arclight’s Outliers or whatever they call them?”

“I’m with Arclight and Friends.”

“Is it Arclight … I thought the news said Arclight and the Outliers. But, okay. Arclight and Friends. Whatever.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re with them?”

“Yeah. I’m part of them.”

“Okay. All right. Yeah, the detention facility’s not here.”

“Oh, I thought he told me to go in and look for it.”

“Who?”

“Arclight.”

“Oh, is he here?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“He’s out front.”

“If you go down this corridor and to the right, it’ll take you to the lobby.”

“Talking to Mr. Smith.”

“Oh, Sgt. Smith. Oh God. He didn’t ask about Loretta, did he?”

“About Loretta.”

“Okay. He’ll be there a while. You got plenty of time. Take your time. It’s down this corridor, take a right. It’ll take you back to the lobby.”

“Cool. Where’s the bathroom?”

“Right there.”

“I just wanted to know where it was.”

“Oh. Well, there it is. There’s men and women. What are you? You sound a like a man.”

“Man.”

“You’re a guy, right?”

“Yes.”

“All right. Right there.”

He pointed to the men’s room. Edward headed back to the lobby where he found Arclight still listening to Sgt. Smith talk about his wife Loretta.

“Edward!” Arclight said when he saw him, relieved he had an excuse to end the conversation. “What’d you go in the station for?”

“You told me to,” Edward said.

“No!” Arclight said. “I motioned like this. Go with Tinker, he’s already left.”

“Well, this isn’t anything!” Edward said, motioning vaguely as Arclight had.

“It’s call signs, man. We gotta learn the call signs.”

“I’m not militaristic.”

“I’m not either.”

“Then why are we using call signs.”

“‘Cause they look cool!”

“But we have to know what they are before we use them!”

“Okay this means get behind me.”

“This?”

“Yeah, and this, this means go away. Do you see the difference here?”

They looked exactly the same.

“No,” Edward said.

“You’re catching on, that’s good,” Arclight said. “Anyways, we gotta go catch up with Tinker. I’m sorry Smith, I really gotta go. Loretta sounds like a lovely lady though.”

“Oh, she’s love of my life!” Sgt. Smith said.

“All right,” Arclight said, heading for the door.

“Wouldn’t be happy without her,” Sgt. Smith said.

“Uh-huh,” Arclight said.

They left the station as Sgt. Smith started talking about Loretta again.

“Good luck, Mr. Man,” Edward said as he left.

“Uh, you too … uh … yeah,” Sgt. Smith said, looking at Edward quizzically.

They headed up to the detention facility and arrived at about the same time as Tinker. It was a solid-looking, low building surrounded by a chain-link fence with razor wire at the top. Arclight was questioned by the man at the gate and made to show his powers. Several telephone calls were made. Finally, the heroes were allowed into the facility. They passed through metal detectors at the front doors, though Edward set them off when he passed through.

Eventually they met with the warden of the facility, a dour gentleman named Ingram Steele. His black hair was going gray at the temples and he had a thick mustache. He looked very strong and solid.

“So, you want to talk to who?” he asked them.

“Uh … the flame guy and the ice guy,” Arclight said.

“You want to talk to the Flamer and Absolute Zero?” he asked, checking a clipboard.

“Sure do,” Arclight said.

“They’ve been processed,” Warden Steele said. “They’ve been put in separate cells. They both appear to have super strength.”

“Separate cells?” Edward asked.

“Yes, separate cells,” Warden Steele said.

“Good, because they’re gay together!” Arclight said.

“Yeah, we know,” Warden Steele said.

“Okay,” Arclight said. “If they’re ever together I’m just saying ‘Watch out.’ Some homoerotic things might happen.”

“Okay … well thanks for the heads up,” Warden Steele said. “Flamer has actual powers. He’s in a flameproof super cell on level two. Absolute Zero … Absolute Zero doesn’t seem to have any powers. He says he had a gun or something that apparently got lost at the scene.”

“It was destroyed at the scene,” Arclight said.

“Okay,” Warden Steele said, noting that fact on the clipboard.

“Arclight destroyed it,” Edward said.

The frigid gun was actually tucked into the back of Arclight’s belt.

“We have facilities,” Warden Steele said. “You can talk to them if you want to.”

“Yeah,” Arclight said.

“That’d be great,” Tinker said.

Warden Steele told them there were facilities allowing visitors to talk to outsiders without actually leaving their cells. When he asked who they wanted to talk to, Arclight said he’d like to talk to Absolute Zero first.

“But with The Flamer, can he use his powers currently?” he asked.

“Yes, he can, but the cell is impervious to flame,” Warden Steele said.

“So then, how do we speak to him?” Arclight asked.

Warden Steele told him the glass installed was a superconductor and impervious to flame. He noted a phone also connected to the cell so the prisoners could talk to people outside of their cells. He further noted the phones were also set up with speakers so the handset was not necessary. The booths were set up directly connected to the cells. He further noted certain civil rights had been removed from people who were super powered to accommodate said powers. For instance, as The Flamer could naturally fly, he was not allowed out of his cell, especially in the yard. He told them the cells for freezing powers and heat powers were on opposite sides of the building. When Edward mentioned a cell for people who could only breathe underwater, the warden told them they had one of those as well.

The warden called for a guard to escort them to the small visiting room connected to Absolute Zero’s cell.

“Edward, what do you think about Tinkerer leading the interrogations?” Arclight asked as they walked there. “Since neither of them know Tinkerer. They might be quite angry with us. But perhaps they would tell things to Tinker they wouldn’t tell us. ‘Cause ya did bite him. So he doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“He froze me,” Edward said.

“Yeah, but you bit him,” Arclight said. “Ice melts, Edward! Bites don’t melt.”

“Ice can burn,” Edward said. “Freezer burn.”

“Freezer burn?”

“Freezer burn. Frostbite. Ice can bite.”

“Ice bites! You bit him back!”

“Yeah!”

“You bit the biter! But yeah, but back to what’s at hand. Tinker, I think you should lead the interrogation.”

“If we point our guns at him …”

“He’s in a cell.”

“He doesn’t know if the guns can go through the glass or not.”

“I don’t think we should shoot people here.”

“Oh.”

“All right, if I’m going to interrogate him, can I have a folder of his basic information?” Tinker asked. “Of everything you guys have?”

“I don’t have a folder for you,” Edward said.

Tinker asked the guard for information on The Flamer and Absolute Zero. The man nodded and left them at the door to the visitor room. He was back in a few minutes with two manila folders filled with still-warm photocopies of various paperwork.

Tinker looked at the one marked Absolute Zero. It noted the man (and the Flamer) were both being held for arson charges with the potential to add attempted murder for the people in the building. It noted Absolute Zero was very strong and fast and he was quite intelligent. His real name was Brian Scott. His suit was armored. He also appeared to be resistant to cold but had no offensive powers. There were a few notes on the frigid gun, as he called it. It could apparently snare people in ice or actually burn them with the cold, or both. There were notes he talked extensively about his frigid gun and claimed there was a patent pending upon it. There was talk of the energy source for the frigid gun as well. It noted he seemed to think his invention ingenious in that what would normally cause damage could be used to merely make the snare more powerful depending upon the setting. There was a note at the bottom he liked to chew ice.

That could be an iron deficiency, Tinker thought.

“So, Edward, he’s going to lead the interrogation,” Arclight said, pointing at Tinker. “But me and you? I’m going to be the bad cop and you be the good cop. You know how that works, right?”

“I’m the good one?” Edward said.

“Do you want to be the bad one?” Arclight said. “It might be fun. Bad cop gets to have all the fun.”

“But we can’t touch him,” Edward said.

“No, but we can threaten him that we might. He doesn’t even have powers.”

“I don’t think it’s going to work.”

“Uh … well, it’s just a game. If you don’t want to play.”

Tinker took off his mask and buttoned up his coat to cover his costume.

“Oh, you be the bad cop, I’ll be the good cop, Doug,” Arclight said.

“Okay,” Doug said.

“You gotta growl,” Arclight said.

Doug growled as Pugs are wont to do: not very menacingly.

“Yeah!” Arclight said.

“Get up against the wall, perp!” Doug said.

“Yeah, there it is,” Arclight said.

“I am the law!” Doug said. “I am the law!”

Arclight laughed.

“Before we go in, give me just a few minutes with him,” Tinker said. “Because he might not talk if you guys are there.”

“Right,” Arclight said.

“Okay,” Edward said.

“Yeah, probably not,” Arclight said.

“I’m just going to see what I can get out of him first,” Tinker said.

“You wanna - you wanna show him the gun?” Arclight asked.

“Yeah,” Tinker said. “Actually, yeah. Let me take that with me.”

He tucked the gun into his coat and went into the room while Arclight and Edward listened at the door. It was fairly small with a glass window set in the wall opposite the door. It looked right into Absolute Zero’s cell with a desk and chair on either side of it and a phone on the wall next to the glass window. Extra chairs were in back of the room. On the other side of the glass, Absolute Zero sat wearing a prison uniform. He seemed surprised to see the man. He pointed to the phone on the wall and pushed the speaker button on his own phone. Tinker pushed the speaker button as well. He sat down and faced the criminal.

“Who the hell are you?” Absolute Zero asked.

“Uh … my name is … uh … Byron,” Tinker said.

“Okay,” Absolute Zero said.

“I’d just like to talk to you about a few things,” Tinker said.

“Are you my lawyer or something?”

“No. No I am not, but …”

“So you one of the supers?”

“No.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m just here to talk to you about some of the instruments that you were using. They’re very impressive. I’ve had a chance to look them over. I am just blown away.”

“Are you the police? Have you got my gun then?”

“Yeah, I’ve got your gun right here.”

He pulled out the frigid gun and put it on the desk in front of him.

“Yeah,” Tinker said.

Absolute Zero looked at it as best he could through the glass.

“Okay, it’s patent pending on that,” he finally said.

“Well,” Tinker said.

“Don’t try to sell my technology,” Absolute Zero said.

“No, there’s−” Tinker said.

“‘Cause I will sue you.”

“I mean−”

“Even from jail, I will sue you.”

“There’s no way we could figure this out. It’s just … the technology just seems beyond anything we can comprehend.”

“Hell yeah, it is.”

“I mean, it’s just … I just … I look at this thing and I’m just … how does this thing even work?”

“Okay, you know about absolute cold right? Kelvin scale all the way down to absolute zero?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ve devised a way to actually use absolute zero, that’s my name, …”

“That’s clever.”

“… to actually create power. It’s essentially … uh … it doesn’t require fuel … it’s literally cold fusion - not like real cold fusion. Basically it has an unlimited power source, it’s not terribly hard to create, but I wouldn’t crack open the actual battery−”

“That’s this part, right?”

“−because it will freeze everything within a quarter of a mile.”

“That’s this?”

Tinker pointed at the light blue glowing part on the top of the weapon.

“No, that’s the capacitor and the amplifier,” Absolute Zero said. “The batteries actually in the back of the gun. The handle doesn’t have anything in it as it doesn’t require a magazine or anything like that. Like I said: my technology. If I find out somebody stole it … I’m not a killer … okay, I could be. I could probably be, but I’ll be very upset if someone steals my technology to make money with. We have an understanding, Byron?”

“Yeah!”

“You with the police? You attached to them or something?”

“I’m more of an admirer of unique artifacts.”

“Well, I made it. I had to after those sons of *****es betrayed me and did this to me … so …”

“Wait, what?”

“**** those guys.”

“What happened?”

* * *

Outside the room, when Arclight gave Doug a high five when he heard the words “unlimited power source.” Doug high-fived him back.

“Let’s destroy the gun,” Edward whispered to Arclight.

“No!” Arclight whispered back. “What the ****?”

“We can use it to get information from him,” Edward whispered.

“That’s bullshit!” Arclight said.

“If it doesn’t need a battery …”

“I’ll bite you, Edward!”

* * *

“They tested their cryogenics on me, okay?” Absolute Zero said.

“Cryogenics, what do you mean?” Tinker asked.

“By locking me into one of the things used to freeze people,” Absolute Zero said. “Freezing people for long periods of time by lowering their body temperature and then later reviving them. I had a good job. And it’s going to come out, it’s going to come out that people got killed. But whatever, they tried to kill me … so … they turned me white. They gave me a big bonus and I used that money to develop the frigid gun and I got my revenge.”

“So, you were a scientist before everything?”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t be doing this now, except for Terry. Terry talked me into it.”

“Terry?”

“Yeah, the Flamer, that’s his name. I hope he’s told somebody. He’s going to be pissed if I’ve given away his ‘secret identity.’ He seems to think we’re in a comic book or something. I don’t know what’s going on. But I love him.”

“So how did you meet Terry? You guys are basically polar opposites.”

“Literally, we’re polar opposites.”

“I know. That’s crazy. But you know what they say about opposites, right?”

“They attract but they don’t make for good, long-lasting relationships.”

“Apparently so. So, this suit that you wear, is that just for looks?”

“It’s armor.”

“Armor.”

“Yeah, Arclight, he’s the one that brought me in and that … Cool Croc or whatever they call that guy.”

“Yeah, that Cool Croc. I haven’t seen much about him.”

“Terry said we needed armor. He’s naturally armored or something, but he didn’t me to get bruised because he likes me un-bruised.”

“He cares about you.”

“Yeah, I love him. He’s a great guy. He’s rich as shit. He’s probably going to end up getting lawyers that will get us both off. But we’ll see. No pun intended.”

“So, why would you use this amazing technology to do what you do? I mean, I know you wanted to get back at those people.”

“I already got back at them.”

“Then what’s your motivation? Why did you do this?”

“Terry said he had a job. He said ‘We can be super villains’ and it’d be fun and exciting. And what the hell am I going to do? Look at me.”

“Have you ever thought about working with the good guys?”

“Meh.”

“Not interesting?”

“Those guys are squares. And some of ‘em, like Arclight … I’ve seen him on the news. He seems like an idiot.”

“Oh … shit.”

* * *

“What?” Arclight whispered outside of the door. “Let’s go in there! He called me an idiot!”

He started making fun of Absolute Zero.

* * *

“And then that Protean fellow who called us out,” Absolute Zero went on. “Terry has all the details. If you want to talk to me about what happened, you’d do better to talk to Terry.”

“Will Terry talk to me?” Tinker asked.

“He’ll do better if he talks to some super hero because he’s going to want to do his super villain shtick.”

“Yeah. He likes to monologue?”

“He loves to monologue.”

“This is all very interesting.”

“All the facts are going to come out about me sooner or later. There’s some dead people who deserved it. They deserved it.”

“What was the cryogenics lab? What was that called? Where did all this happen?”

“Cryo-Ice. You can look it up. Cryo-Ice Incorporated.”

“I feel like I’ve heard about them before.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it exists anymore.”

“Not after you were done with it, right?”

“Somebody had to stop ‘em before they started picking bums off the street to experiment on or something. Right?”

“Yeah. Can’t have that.”

“You take one of your best scientists and you throw him in a chamber and say ‘Hey, we need to test this. We’ll test it on you.’ What kind of messed-up, middle-management bullshit is that?”

“So, did they test on homeless?”

“They tested on me! And I worked for them!”

“But they didn’t move beyond you?”

“No, they didn’t because Cryo-Ice doesn’t exist anymore. And that was me. Yeah, I’ll take the blame for that. **** those guys.”

“Well, this has all been very amazing. Thank you. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Byron.”

“And if there’s anything else, you know, the guys here know how to get in touch with me.”

“Well, that is actually mine.”

Absolute Zero pointed at the gun.

“So if you can hand it over to the warden so he can put it away until I’m out of jail, I’d appreciate it,” he said.

“Yeah, I’ll hand it over,” Tinker said.

“All right,” Absolute Zero said.

Tinker looked at his watch and told him he only had a couple more minutes if there was anything else he wanted to say. He said he’d get the gun to the warden and left the room.

* * *

Tinker exited the visitor room. Arclight asked about the gun and Tinker handed it to him.

“Let’s break it!” Edward said.

“I don’t want to break it,” Arclight said.

“I think that would be a very bad idea,” Tinker said.

“No, we could not break the battery pack like you said,” Edward said. “But we could break it.”

“I don’t know, I think we could use it,” Tinker said.

“I think we could use it too,” Arclight said. “But if you really want to piss the guy off, say you’re going to mass make these and sell ‘em.”

“There’s a power source in here that, if I could tap into it and understand it, it could change everything,” Tinker said.

“For the better … or worse?” Edward asked.

“Who do you think I am?” Tinker said. “For the better.”

“I’m talking about if you can mass produce this energy, other people can too,” Edward said.

“Someone’s already figured it out. It’s only a matter of time before somebody else does.”

“Let’s destroy the patent.”

“You can’t.”

“Let’s go to the patent office.”

“The patent office.”

“For the patent.”

“Do you even know what patents are, Edward?” Arclight asked.

Edward just looked at him. Then he looked at the door to the visitor room.

“Let’s flip him off,” Arclight said.

Edward opened the door, cracking it enough to put his arm in, and flipped the bird into the room. What he didn’t see was that Absolute Zero had left the window and didn’t even see it.

They told the guard they wanted to talk to the Flamer and he led them through the corridors, passing back through the main lobby area of the building. There was a man at the front desk getting sword back.

* * *

Shadow Knight had been incarcerated in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Criminal Exotics Holding Facility for several hours. He had been running down a road at a speed in excess of the speed limit for a residential neighborhood and some police officer with a radar had pulled him over. When he realized he was dealing with an exotic, he panicked, drew his sidearm, and arrested the man, thinking he was probably a villain. He then brought the man to the super jail until they could sort it out. Shadow Knight was given a phone call which he used to call one of his contacts in the government, who saw to it he was released.

As he took the swords, black armor covered him, though he left his head exposed. He was blonde-haired and blue eyed.

That’s when he saw two more exotics and a man in a long coat. Perhaps Charlotte was really hard on exotics. However, he recognized Arclight and Doug the Pug.

* * *

Tinker was talking to Edward about the frigid gun though Edward continued to want him to break it.

“You’re the guys who were on the news,” the man at the desk said in a thick, German accent.

“Duh,” Arclight said, walking by.

“Hi!” Edward said.

“Look at that guy!” Doug said.

The pug went over and sniffed at the man.

“He’s being processed,” Arclight said. “He’s a criminal. Don’t mess with this guy.”

“Criminal?” Shadow Knight said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said. “You’re being given your stuff back. You’re obviously a criminal.”

“Don’t do it again,” Tinker said to the man.

“Or you’ll have Doug the pug to deal with,” Doug said.

“I’m no criminal,” Shadow Knight said.

“How does your suit work?” Tinker said.

“He’s not a criminal,” the heavyset, red-headed woman behind the desk said, her voice deep and gravelly. “There was a mistake.”

“Oh, so he’s not a criminal?” Arclight asked.

“He was in for a speeding violation,” the woman replied. “It got taken a little too far.”

“It’s so strange,” Shadow Knight said. “Speeding for exotics.”

“So, are you, like, really fast?” Arclight asked him. “‘Cause I’m, like, really fast.”

“I bet you I could beat you,” Shadow Knight said.

“I fly really fast,” Arclight said.

“People with flight are so arrogant,” Shadow Knight said.

“Arclight, we can’t … we can’t do this now,” Tinker said. “We need to go talk to Flamer.”

“Yeah, I know,” Arclight said. “This guy is ruining my mood.”

“Don’t be a buzz kill!” Doug said to Shadow Knight.

“You’re being an ass,” Edward said to Arclight.

The other man gasped.

“Edward!” he said.

“Language,” Tinker said.

“Preach it, Edward,” Doug said, flying over to fist bump him.

“Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side,” Arclight said. “No matter what I do.”

“I am on your side,” Doug said to him. “I’m always on your side.”

“He called me an ass!” Arclight said.

Doug flew over and licked Arclight in the face. That made the man laugh.

“So, what is your name?” Shadow Knight asked Edward.

“Edward,” the crocodile replied.

“Edward, what are you doing?” Arclight asked.

“I don’t know,” Edward said.

“That’s your hero name?” Shadow Knight asked.

“Huh?” Edward said. “Oh, I don’t have one.”

“Vicegrip,” Arclight said. “I gave you one.”

“No,” Edward said.

“Wow, you’re … very German,” Tinker said.

“Well, I do come from Germany,” Shadow Knight said.

“It makes sense,” Tinker said.

“Oh God,” Arclight moaned.

“So, Arclight,” Tinker said. “Flamer.”

“So does beer,” Doug said.

“Yeah, we should go,” Arclight said. “It was nice meeting you … uh … whatever your name is.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Shadow Knight said.

“That’s the Shadow Knight,” the woman behind the desk said in her gravelly voice.

“We don’t … uh … we don’t …” Arclight said, walking away.

“I hope to see you in the field,” Shadow Knight called.

“Heinz Ketchup and everything man,” Edward said.

“I don’t,” Arclight muttered.

“Jeeze Arclight, I thought you were a nice guy,” Doug said to him.

“He seems down today,” Shadow Knight said.

“He’s a criminal,” Arclight said to Doug.

“They just said he wasn’t,” Edward said.

“He looks like a criminal,” Arclight said.

“What do I look like?” Edward asked.

“A gator.”

“You look like a crocodile,” Doug said.

“Oh, a crocodile, yeah that’s right,” Arclight said.

“Not an alligator!” Doug said.

“Is it … books can be deceiving?” Shadow Knight called.

“That’s the saying, actually,” Tinker said.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” Edward said.

“Did you say ‘books can be deceiving?’” Doug said. “That’s not a saying.”

“You can’t judge a book by its pages,” Edward said.

“It is,” Arclight said. “It’s a saying.”

“Books can be deceiving?” Doug said again.

“I don’t like anybody that wears all black, all right?” Arclight said. “This guy’s in all black. Like, he’s obviously a villain and we’re going to catch him later.”

He looked at Shadow Knight.

“You watch your back,” he said.

Then he glowed brightly.

“I got my eye on you, Hans,” he said. “And I got my other eye on the rest of crime, ‘cause I got two eyes.”

“And he’s cockeyed,” Doug said.

“Cockeyed?” Arclight said.

“Like a chameleon!” Edward said.

“So I have 50 percent of your attention?” Shadow Knight said.

“Why don’t you change your name to Chameleon Guy?” Doug suggested. “You can look at two things at once.”

“That’s not a good name,” Arclight said. “Guys!”

“Chameleon Guy’s a good name,” Doug said.

“But we really should to interrogate The Flamer now,” Arclight said. “Because, you know, we’re superheroes.”

“Was he the one catching all the buildings on fire?” Shadow Knight asked.

“Yes, he was,” Arclight said. “And we caught him because we’re the greatest superhero team in Charlotte, so …”

“Yeah!” Doug said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said. “Yeah.”

“Aren’t you the only superhero team in Charlotte?” Shadow Knight said.

“It’s ‘cause this town don’t need any more!” Arclight said. “Like you, Hans.”

“His name is the Shadow Knight,” the woman behind the desk said.

“Shadow Knight?” Arclight said.

“I’m done with this,” Tinker said. “I’ll meet you guys there.”

He walked down the hallway with the guard.

“That’s the name he gave, yeah,” the lady behind the desk said.

“How did you catch him?” Shadow Knight asked.

“Can I break the gun?” Edward asked.

“No!” Arclight said. “We’re not breaking the gun!”

“Why?” Edward asked.

“It’s a bad idea,” Arclight said. “I want to use it.”

“Why?” Edward said.

“I want to use the gun,” Arclight said. “I don’t want to break it.”

Tinker came back and there was some discussion on where they were going. Then the man handed Shadow Knight some dog treats from his pocket for him to give to Doug. He did so, tossing them at the dog. Doug flew through the air to catch the treats. Tinker left again.

“How did you manage to take down this Flamer?” Shadow Knight asked.

“We’re really good at this,” Arclight said. He pointed at Edward. “He bit one of ‘em.”

“We took down his partner and then we shot him with the ice,” Edward said. “Yes. We turned their own instruments against them.”

“Interesting,” Shadow Knight said. “Now, who’s his teammate?”

“Uh … some guy with a gun that turns things to ice,” Edward said. “It’s really annoying.”

“Yeah, it was fire and ice,” Arclight said. “So lame.”

“It is kind of lame,” Shadow Knight said. “So, you’re interrogating them. Is there more of them?”

“Yeah … yeah … that’s what we’re doing,” Arclight said. “We’re interrogating them … because it’s our job.”

“Am I taking up too much of your time?” Shadow Knight asked.

“Yeah, maybe,” Arclight said. “Maybe.”

“Not really,” Doug said. “Tinker already left.”

“Oh God!” Arclight said. “Yeah, we should probably go catch up with him.”

“Wait a second,” Edward said. “He wanted to be interrogated by superheroes so we actually probably do need to go.”

“I shall stop taking your time,” Shadow Knight said.

“Yeah and don’t speed again,” Arclight said.

“No promises,” Shadow Knight said.

“Bye,” Edward said.

“You were very pleasant,” Shadow Knight called to him as he walked away. “Edward, is it?”

“Yeah,” Edward said.

Shadow Knight headed out of the building while the others ran down the corridor to catch up with Tinker. They got to him before he got to the interrogation room.

“I don’t like that guy,” Arclight said. “Stop talking to him.”

“He’s not a bad guy,” Edward said.

“He could be,” Arclight said. “He wears all black.”

“So does Batman!” Doug said.

“You don’t know−” Edward started to say.

“Batman has a cool symbol on his shirt,” Arclight said. “And he’s a good guy and he’s rich.”

They reached the visitor room door. Tinker told them the man wanted to talk to a super, according to his file. According to the paperwork he had super strength, could shoot fire from his hands, and could fly. He was also fairly resistant to injury. It also noted he had dangersense. His name was Terry Richards from the prominent Richards Family in Charlotte. They were very, very rich.

The background section of the notes was much more extensive than Absolute Zero’s had been.

It noted Richards’ family died in a car accident when he was a child. He was so traumatized he went to one of their properties and burned down the house. There was a cover up, according to Terry, and he spent a little time in a mental institution after that. He was wild until his college days and apparently he still had control of the Richards’s fortune. According to him, after he met Brian, they decided to embark on “an exciting life of crime (with the possibility of switching over to a super hero or maybe taking over the world or something like that).”

“So, you got all that?” Tinker said.

“Yeah,” Arclight said.

“All right, well, I would go in all showy,” Tinker said. “‘Cause he’s the type, from what I hear, who likes to monologue.”

“Yeah, once you get him talking, he probably won’t stop,” Arclight said.

“Well, if you can get him talking, that would probably be the best.”

“Oh, am I going in?”

“Yeah. This is all you.”

“Oh boy.”

“He wouldn’t know who I am. Or Edward.”

“He knows me,” Edward said.

“Yeah, he’s seen Edward’s face,” Arclight said.

“That’s right,” Edward said.

“Edward, do you want to do good-cop/bad-cop?” Arclight said.

“Nope.”

“Do you want to go in?”

“I’m not good at interrogation.”

“We’re trying to improve these things. Don’t you want to improve?”

“Meh. Maybe some things. Not interrogation skills.”

“Fine, then. I’ll do it.”

“You’re the leader anyway.”

Arclight sighed.

“Of Arclight and Friends,” Edward said with a toothy grin.

“Arclight and Friends,” Arclight sang. “That’s going to be our song.”

“Okay,” Edward said.

Arclight opened the door and headed into the room, followed by Doug, Edward, and Tinker. The room was identical to the one Tinker had been in before and they could see The Flamer sitting in the chair on the other side of the glass. He had an emery board and was working on his nails. He put it away when he saw them, tucking it under the desk.

“So,” he said, standing up and putting his hands on his hips. “Are you here to finish the job?”

“We’re here to ask you a couple of questions,” Arclight said tiredly. “And please, for the love of God, just answer them.”

“So, you’re here to torment me?” The Flamer said.

“Yes,” Arclight said.

“Do your worst! I’ll never spill my guts! Probably.”

“I don’t need your guts. I need information on why you were burning down all those buildings.”

“Oh, is that all?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, if I tell you, you have to do something for me.”

“Okay …”

“You have to put a good word in for me at the trial, and note that I was very cooperative. Because you never know when I could just switch over and become a super hero and save the whole city.”

“I’d rather you not. But I’ll write a note that says you were cooperative with our investigation.”

“Fair enough. I know Arclight and Friends can be trusted because you’re heroes.”

“Yes. We are good people.”

“Okay fine.”

The Flamer finally sat back down and crossed his legs.

“So, what do you want to know?” he asked.

“Why were you burning down the buildings?” Arclight asked. “What was the point?”

“We were hired,” The Flamer said.

“Hired?” Arclight said.

“Because someone needed super villains. Because they knew the superheroes in this town would be interfering with anything they tried to do. Hired by a nefarious man. Very nefarious.”

“What’s his name? Do you know his name?”

“Oh! You can’t guess? You don’t know?”

“I don’t know.”

“I thought the vaunted Arclight was a detective, was the dark knight of detective-ing.”

“No, I’m not that. I’m trying to clean this city but I just can’t seem to figure out the details of all of these villains. There’s so many of you.”

“Dr. Murder?” Edward said.

“What?” The Flamer said. “No! That guy is awful!”

“Oh,” Edward said.

“He’s, like, killing people,” The Flamer said.

“When’d you get here?” Arclight asked Edward.

He was surprised to see Tinker in the room too, standing in the back.

“Hello,” Arclight said to him. “Okay. All right.”

“That was my guess,” Edward said.

“It’s the little guy!” The Flamer said, pointing at Edward. “Super Cool Croc! What the hell’s your name?”

“Huh?” Edward said.

The Flamer snapped his fingers while trying to remember.

“Tear jerk?” he guessed. “Tearjerker? Um … hmmm. It’s not Meatwad, that’s from a television show.”

“All right,” Edward said.

“No, they said you were several different names,” The Flamer said. “I can’t remember which one it was.”

“Vicegrip,” Arclight said.

“That’s it!” The Flamer said. “Vicegrip!”

“Vicegrip,” Arclight said again.

The Flamer composed himself again.

“Yes, Vicegrip,” he said to the crocodile. “I saw you bite my boyfriend. Are you here to torture me as well?”

“No,” Edward said.

“Aw,” The Flamer said.

“Who’s the nefarious man?” Arclight asked.

“I thought you knew,” The Flamer said.

“No,” Arclight said. “We don’t know. Anybody.”

“Who was that guy that attacked you?” Edward said. “Ordnance.”

“No, it’s not him,” The Flamer said. “He’s not a super.”

“The Gentleman,” Edward said.

“No, wait,” The Flamer said. “He’s not a super. He’s the guy that would get the most if they burned down. It’s an insurance thing.”

“Oh, the guy who owned the buildings!” Edward said.

“And that is …?” The Flamer said.

“And the bars,” Arclight said. “And the bars too.”

“And that is …?” The Flamer said again.

“Tommy McElroy?” Edward said.

The Flamer gasped.

“How did you know?” he said.

“Oh … well … we were … just off the top of my head, man,” Edward said.

“I thought it was him,” Arclight said. “I thought it was him.”

“I see you are the real brains behind this outfit,” The Flamer said to Edward.

“Uh, no,” Edward said.

“I find that so attractive,” The Flamer said.

“I’m not a human being,” Edward said.

“We approached him and we interrogated him and he was just so … off-putting,” Arclight said. “But I knew it was him. I knew he had to have done something.”

“Well, I assume he was doing it either for the insurance or to get back at some enemies or something,” The Flamer said.

“And why would you associate yourself with him?” Arclight asked. “That’s such …”

“Well, we were in the bar one night and I was showing off my powers for some of the other eligible men there because Brian was in a tiff, he didn’t want to go out that night, so …” The Flamer said. “I just … you know how you do.”

“Yeah.”

“So, he saw it and he approached me and he said ‘I could use someone with your powers.’ And I said ‘Well, as long as my boyfriend can come along’ and he didn’t mind, said that was fine. So, he gave me a list of places to hit, to burn down. Like I said, it’s either an insurance scam thing or maybe he was after an enemy. Maybe he was trying to kill his enemies. I don’t know. He gave me the addresses and so we … flame on!”

“That’s such grunt-level work though.”

“Well, you gotta start somewhere. I wanted to make a name for myself. And then there was always the option of switching sides.”

“It’s not really an option,” Tinker said.

“But, don’t tell him I told you,” The Flamer said.

“We won’t say you did, but …” Arclight said.

“Good, because you figured it out,” The Flamer said. “Vicegrip figured it out. He must be some kind of secret super detective, because I didn’t say it.”

“Good job, Vicegrip,” Arclight said.

“And it could do a lot of damage to my rep,” The Flamer said. “Or … maybe that’s why I become a superhero …”

Arclight sighed again.

“The underdog villain turned superhero’s a pretty cool story,” he said.

“Yeah,” The Flamer said. “That’s what I’m thinking about right now. You never know. You never know. He’s also the one that gave us the robots.”

“Oh, man, the robots,” Arclight said.

“Wait, he gave you robots?” Edward said.

“He said we could use them if we got into an emergency with those super freaks or whatever,” The Flamer said. “He was really − he did not like the superheroes in this town.”

“How did he get a hold of robots?” Arclight said.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” The Flamer said. “He just gave me the ones that − we had those three that Protean blew up. He gave ‘em to us. He said ‘Just in case.’ I said ‘Okay.’”

“Didn’t that other guy have robots just like them?” Edward asked. “Wane?”

Arclight nodded.

“We gotta find out where these robots are coming from,” he said.

“Now we’ve gotta do that,” Edward said.

“I don’t understand why a guy who has robots would be burning down buildings for insurance scam anyways,” Arclight said.

“Extra money?” Edward said. “I mean, maybe he owed money on the robots.”

“Maybe,” Arclight said. “We need to go talk to Tommy.”

“Should we let the police in?” Edward said.

“No,” Arclight said. “It’s too risky right now.”

“The media!” The Flamer said. “You should call the media. Make them meet you there.”

“I do like the media,” Arclight said.

“Arclight’s very high profile,” The Flamer said. “I think you do a wonderful job, by the way, the way you talk to the media is just amazing!”

“For sure,” Arclight said.

“I’ve got to find a way to talk to the media like that,” The Flamer said. He looked at Arclight. “Oh, you’re beautiful, by the way. I just thought I’d tell you.”

“And this interview’s over,” Tinker said.

“And who is that?” The Flamer asked, looking at Tinker. He made a little claw and scratched it towards the man. “Rawr! Arclight! Who’s your friend?”

“I don’t know if he wants to be introduced,” Arclight said.

“Rawr!” The Flamer said again.

“I’m going,” Tinker said, uncomfortable. “Fine.”

He walked out the door.

“Oh, he’s Homophobe Man,” The Flamer said. “I see. Okay, fine. Nice super power!”

“Thank you for your time,” Arclight said. “I’ll tell them you were cooperative.”

“Thank you!” The Flamer said.

“I really don’t think you’re a villain and I don’t think you should be,” Arclight said. “You or Brian. I think you guys just got caught up in the wrong act.”

“Well, thank you,” The Flamer said sincerely. “Thank you.”

“See Edward,” Arclight said.

“Oh,” The Flamer said. “I like that name.”

“I can be nice,” Arclight said to Edward.

“Well, good luck,” The Flamer said. “Bye!”

He waved.

“I don’t mind being nice to him,” Edward said as they were leaving. “Ice guy can suck it.”

“Hey now!” The Flamer said. “Stop!”

“But he does suck it,” Arclight quipped.

“Well, that is true,” The Flamer said.

They left on that note.

They found Tinker in the hallway with the guard, who’d asked him not to smoke when he had taken out a cigarette. The man apologized but noted it was state law.

“Let’s go ****ing get Tommy,” Arclight said. “I’m so mad that I knew it was him and he ****ing tricked me.”

“Let’s do it,” Edward said. “And beat him up.”

“So, Tommy owns …” Tinker said.

“He owns some bars around town,” Arclight said. “He owns these apartments that were being burned down. And I was pretty sure it was him and we went and talked to him and he kicked us out because we started a fight, sort of.”

“Let’s immediately tie him down,” Edward said.

“Let’s find out where Tommy is and let’s just ****ing corner him,” Arclight said. “We’re going off the books. I don’t usually do this.”

He took out the list he’d made of all of Tommy McElroy’s properties. There were four bars and two remaining apartment buildings. It was about 10:30 p.m. and Arclight guessed he was probably either at home or at one of his bars.

“Too bad he owns four bars,” Edward said.

“Well there’s three of us,” Arclight said. “We − we could try−”

“Three?” Doug said.

“Yeah, I’m not sending you alone, though,” Arclight said.

“Just to find out where he is?” Doug said. “I can go.”

“No,” Arclight said. “Doug, no.”

“C’mon!” Doug said. “Send me coach!”

“C’mon,” Edward said. “Recon.”

“If only we had, like, somebody else,” Arclight said.

“What about that dude that you got pissed off at?” Doug asked.

“I just … uh … I don’t … I mean he’s … apparently he’s fast,” Arclight said. “But I don’t think we can trust him. I don’t like him.”

“Because he’s German?” Tinker asked.

“I’m not … I’m not …” Arclight said.

“Are you Jewish, Arclight?” Doug asked.

“No,” Arclight said. “Maybe.”

“Then why do you hate the Germans?” Doug asked.

“I think Hanukah’s really cool,” Arclight said. “Okay, alright, yeah. Let’s page the others. Let’s see if anybody’s ****ing around.”

They paged everyone else but didn’t get any replies.

“Is everybody asleep or something?” Edward asked.

“Huh?” Arclight said.

“Is everybody asleep or something,” Edward said again.

“I don’t know,” Arclight said.

“It seems very fickle.”

“What a great superhero team we have. No one ever responds. I guess it’s just us.”

Arclight gave out the addresses and noted he and Doug would go to the furthest ones because they could fly. Tinker asked what McElroy looked like and Edward suggested going to his house but Arclight said they should try the bars first.

“He’s like this big guy,” Arclight said to Tinker.

“Okay,” Tinker said.

“With this, just, stupid-ass smile,” Arclight said. “He’s got, like, one of those tiny goatees and a mustache that doesn’t connect to it.”

“Like a thin strip?” Tinker said.

“Ayuh,” Arclight said. “He wears glasses and he’s just, he’s just a terrible human being.”

“I hate it when they’re terrible and they smile all the time,” Tinker said.

“And he smells like bacon and sweat and aftershave!” Doug said.

“Yeah, he smells horrible,” Arclight said.

“The bacon smelled good,” Doug said.

“And he’s got short, like, wavy hair and he’s all, like, red in the face because he’s flustered or something,” Arclight said.

“I think he eats a lot of bacon,” Doug said. “He eats a lot of bacon.”

“Yeah, if you see that guy, just take him down,” Arclight said. “We’re going behind the cops this time because, this guy, we can’t let him get away. We’re going to have to interrogate him and figure out about the robots.”

He pulled up the map on his phone and planned on who would go where. The closest bar was the Chow Down Bar and Grill on Hamilton Street. The others were further south and west. Arclight decided Edward would go to the Chow Down Bar and Grill because it was the closest and he didn’t have a vehicle. Tinker was going to the Rusty Tap Bar and Grill at the Shops at Freedom. Chappy’s Bar and Grill was also south and Arclight told Doug to go there. Finally, there was a Drunk Leprechaun Bar and Grill; Arclight planned to visit that one.

“Try not to engage Tommy until we get can back to whoever finds him,” Arclight said. “But if you can’t avoid it, don’t let him get away.”

He made sure Doug knew where he was going. The pug gave him a paw up. As he had no opposable thumbs, he was unable to give a thumbs up.

“Don’t scare people by talking to them, too,” Arclight said. “Because …”

“Can I break glass?” Doug asked.

“Sure,” Arclight said.

“Yes!” Doug said and flew away.

They split up.

* * *

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