Let's see here... holy nuts, three months since the last post? Man, I've got to get back to this! Here's a long overdue chapter 9, and it's extra long too! Thank you, loyal readers for your support!
Chapter Nine: Captive Hearts
“It’s all my fault.”
“No, no, don’t blame yourself.”
Nobody shook his head, standing up from his spot at the bench outside of the office low-rise. A Fe-Metru Police Department officer stood by the front door, looking stern. Investigators were examining the ransacked but otherwise empty room that Nobody had found an hour earlier, while Mazeka interviewed Nobody outside.
“But it is my fault,” said Nobody, adjusting his cloak. “It was my duty to keep an eye on X, and I flagrantly misplaced my obligation.”
Mazeka kept his notepad in hand, carefully writing on it. “Let’s start from the beginning,” he said. “Why did you leave X-Ray at the EB in the first place?”
Nobody sighed. Might as well get it over with. “I had an… appointment,” he said. “A very important, personal appointment, that I had to have, and I needed a place to park X-Ray until I could take care of it.”
“Why didn’t you just call in a personal day so we could schedule a replacement for you?” asked Mazeka. He thought for a moment, and said, “Unless, or course, you knew your reasons for a personal day would be denied by your supervisor…” Mazeka gave Nobody a knowing grin, and said, “So, was she hot?”
“What?” said the Ko-Matoran. “I’m just saying, we all know that you haven’t been able to get yourself a girl in centuries—”
“That’s not why I needed an appointment!” said Nobody. He stood and started pacing. “Honestly, I don’t know how much of more these jejune, sophomoric jibes I can take! I hate, I absolutely detest—”
“Okay, okay, calm down, Nobody!” said Mazeka, waving his hands. “If it wasn’t a date, then why did you need a personal day?”
Nobody stared Mazeka in the eye, and said, “I had to go to the doctor.”
Mazeka cocked his head to the side. “The doctor? Why didn’t you just say so? I’m sure your supervisor would have allowed it.”
“Not the cough and migraine kind of doctor,” said Nobody. “A different kind of doctor. You know… a shrink.”
Mazeka gaped, before saying, “Well, that… that’s something. Um, for what, may I ask?”
“None of your business!” said Nobody. “Now are we going to stand on this street all day, or are we going to find X?!”
The two OMN agents turned at the sound of their names, to find Deputy Director Thomob approaching with his retinue of aides and bodyguards. The sapphire armored being had arrived in a Cadillac and was dressed in a nice suit.
“Wait a second,” said Nobody, “why’s your armor blue? Didn’t the narrator say in chapter 2 that it was, quote, ‘emerald’?”
“I repainted it,” said Thomob, smiling behind his mask. “It doesn’t help that the author can’t keep track of what color it is.” Thomob’s eyes narrowed as he approached Nobody, and said to him, “Speaking of which, I’m here because I heard X-Ray’s gone missing. What’s the situation?”
Nobody glanced behind him at the low-rise, before looking back at Thomob. “It’s a long story.”
* * *
X-Ray woke up with a start, a bucket of cold water having been dumped on his head. He glanced around, gasping in shock. He was in a darkened room, sitting in an uncomfortable chair with his arms bound behind him with duct tape. A glaring light shined in his face, and a table was set up in front of him. A swarthy brute stood in front of him, looking menacing. Beside him stood the tall, husky, longhaired man from before, holding a now empty bucket. Alexander.
X-Ray gulped, and struggled to keep a cool head, a difficult thing to do with the throbbing headache pounding inside his skull. The last thing he remembered was these two breaking into his and Nobody’s office space, and someone jamming a needle into his neck. He hated needles.
“Let’s get down to business,” said Alexander’s partner, walking up next to X-Ray. “I’m Mikhail, and you are going to tell us what you know about our operation.”
X-Ray looked him in the eye, and, resisting the urge to tell Mikhail to relocate to a particularly nasty destination in the Matoran Universe, instead said, “No, thank you.”
Mikhail grabbed him by the hair and got in his face, saying, “That wasn’t the answer I was looking for.” He tightened his grip on X-Ray’s hair. “Understand. We do not play flipping games.”
X-Ray bit back a smile. Mikhail’s use of a euphemism instead of an actual profanity reminded him that he, not Mikhail, was still in control of the situation, if only on a purely metatextual level. “I’ve got nothing to say to you,” said X-Ray. His scalp was beginning to hurt.
Mikhail released X-Ray, and took a step back. He then said, “Let’s start from the beginning. You were caught consorting with an asset of our organization, and your partner ran into Alexander here at Gold Harbor.” He paced back and forth, never breaking eye-contact with X-Ray. “Comrade Muldoon then called to let us know that a pair of amerikanskiy detectives were snooping around his house, talking to his wife. And now, we have you here.”
Mikhail leaned on the table, leering at X-Ray, and said, “If you cooperate, and tell us what you know about our operation, and who is on to us, and how much the police know, then maybe we can work this out. Together.”
X-Ray considered his interrogator’s words, and then, abruptly, laughed. “Pretending you’re my friend?” said X-Ray. “Typical interrogation tactic. Let me guess, ex-KGB?”
Mikhail only smiled back, and said, “I was formerly employed by that organization. Now I am part of a different organization.” Alexander remained in the shadows, silent.
“You mean, ‘organizatsiya’, correct?” said X-Ray, daring to make a sneer. He was rewarded with a blow to the face by Mikhail.
“Curses!” said Mikhail, massaging his hand. He had hurt his hand on X-Ray’s eyepiece. Regaining his composure, he then said, “You have a smart mouth.” X-Ray noticed that Alexander was writing something on a piece of paper. “But let’s see how if that holds up after we’re through with you.” He went over to another corner of the darkened room, where X-Ray could barely make out another table. It was too dark for him to make out what was on it, but he could guess. He didn’t like what came to mind.
X-Ray breathed in deeply, and then exhaled. He needed to find a way to alert Nobody to where he was. His hands were bound, and shouting for help was out of the question, but he did have one thing: his eyepiece. It had deactivated when X-Ray was drugged unconscious, but Mikhail’s blow had inadvertently turned it back on. Nothing like a good old booting up, thought X-Ray. And now, the eyepiece was beginning to turn back on. It came online, bringing up the HUD in X-Ray’s field of vision.
Mikhail turned back to X-Ray, coming back into the light, holding… a feather? “Now, as you amerikanskiy say,” said Mikhail, “’We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.’” X-Ray eyed the feather, and thought, We’re in a children’s comedy. Figures.
The Russian put the feather back on the other table, and said to X-Ray, “We’ll give you time to consider your plight, and then we’ll come back. Perhaps you will be felling a bit more… chatty then. If not…” He glanced back at the table. “This isn’t the only thing I have back there.”
The two walked out of the room, slamming the door behind them. X-Ray immediately began running through his eyepiece’s computer, going to the email app. Unfortunately, wherever he was, there was no WiFi.
“Dangit!” said X-Ray. So much for that idea. But then another one occurred to him: Thermal imaging vision. He scanned the walls, trying to see through them. What he saw mildly surprised him. He saw that beyond the walls of his prison was a large space, where Mikhail and Alexander could be seen conversing. A shipping container inside of an abandoned warehouse, he thought. Straight out of Burn Notice.
X-Ray went back to the other apps in his eyepiece. Email was out, so that left the phone and text messaging. He mentally summoned the keypad, and began typing in the numbers to the local emergency hotline. 6… 1… 1…
“Six-one-one,” said the operator. “What is your emergency?”
“Oh, thank Mata Nui!” said X-Ray. “I’ve been kidnapped, but I have a cellular device that the kidnappers don’t know about. I need help!”
“Do you know where you are, sir?” This operator was a trained professional. Not breaking a sweat even for a minute, and she knew English too. That, or she had a Babel fish in her ear.
“Uh…” X-Ray suddenly realized that he had no idea where he was. “No, I don’t. But I know who my kidnappers are. My name is X-Ray, and their names are Alexander and Mikhail.”
“Okay, are they humans, Glatorian, Agori, Bone Hunters, or Skrall?”
“Okay, are they white, black, or Hispanic?”
“Uh, white. And they’re Russians, I think. Russian Mafiya.”
“Alright, good. Stay on the line, the police will be there soon.”
X-Ray would have wiped the sweat off his brow, but his hands were still bound behind him. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll try to keep giving you information as I can.”
“That would be great, sir, but don’t endanger yourself.”
* * *
Thomob’s words hit Nobody like a jolt from a taser. He winced under his mask and prepared for the oncoming tirade. It came.
“Not only did you aid and abet the principal in engaging in dangerous activity,” said Thomob, “but you actually abandoned your post to go see a psychiatrist, without informing your supervisor?”
“I understand what it means to breach protocol, sir,” said Nobody. The two stood in the captain’s office of the local FMPD precinct, filled with the usual bustle of such a location. Also in attendance were Agents Johmak and Trinuma.
“Evidently,” said Thomob, pointing a finger in Nobody’s face, “you do not! Do you have any idea, any idea at all, what a danger it is to both you and your fellow agents to send you into the field when you do not have full possession of your faculties? Do you?”
Nobody only nodded, saying, “Yes, sir.”
“I would hope so,” said Thomob. He turned around, taking his turn at rubbing his face. The job was getting to him, and he was quickly becoming more and more enthusiastic about Helryx’s return. Finally, he turned around and said, “Okay, look, here’s the story. We are going to find X-Ray, and you’re going to step back from the situation.”
Nobody tried to interrupt, but Thomob raised a hand and said, “I know, you want to help find X-Ray, you two being friends and all, but you know as well as I do you that you are too emotionally connected to this situation. That, and you are not in full possession of your faculties. The only thing that I can allow you to do is to let us know about any information you might have about where X-Ray might be. Understood?”
Nobody nodded, knowing that the lanky green being was correct. “Yes, deputy-director.”
“I’m glad that you understand,” said Thomob. He turned to Johmak and Trinuma, the latter of whom was perfectly miserable trying to contort his large frame in a room designed for Glatorian and Toa. “Trinuma, I want you to coordinate search efforts with the FMPD, and I want every available uniform cop and agent knocking on doors. We need to find X-Ray before HYDRA does. Get in touch with the FMPD’s gang unit and organized crime task force, see if they know anything. Johmak, I need you to—”
Suddenly, Pohatu Nuva came in through the door. He was now Captain Pohatu Nuva, having helped found the Fe-Metru Police Department with Kopaka Nuva after the events of The Powers That Be. He was not at all annoyed that his comrades had commandeered his office.
“Deputy Director,” said Pohatu, “we’ve received a phone call on the 611 system. It’s from X-Ray!”
If Thomob was elated at this news, he didn’t show it. “Where is he?”
“We don’t know, he’s on a mobile device, but we’re trying to trace the call.”
“Get him on the phone with…” Thomob’s voice trailed off as he tried to decide who would be the best at maintaining conflict with X-Ray. Ordinarily, they would have a close relative or a family member do the job while the police monitored, but these were very different circumstances. “Mazeka,” he finally said. “Get him on the phone with Mazeka.”
“Mazeka’s leading the search on the streets,” said Johmak.
“Fine, you get on the phone with him,” said Thomob. “Set recording devices, keep him talking, you know the drill.” Johmak and Pohatu left the room, while Nobody, Thomob, and Trinuma remained.
Nobody said to Thomob, “Sir, if there’s anything I can do—”
“Save it, Nobody,” said Thomob. He leaned on the desk, sighed, and then looked the agent in the eye. “Nobody. Urban. I don’t know how the disciplinary review board is going to handle you after this fiasco, but even if you do get past them, you’ll be out on a Section 8 faster than you can say, ‘I am so dead.’”
“I’m sorry, but this is how things work. Whatever’s got you wrong in the head, we can’t afford having agents who don’t have it all together.” Thomob got up to leave the room, with Trinuma contorting his body to follow. Thomob stopped to look back at Nobody, and said to him, “Whatever happens to you, Nobody, you’ll have your OMN pension, and I know you’ve got a lot more skills than sneaking and skulking. You’ll be alright. Until this fiasco blows over, however, you’re on paid administrative leave. May Mata Nui be with you.” Thomob and Trinuma left the room, leaving Nobody to his own thoughts.
Great. I’m on paid administrative leave, he thought. I can’t do anything within official parameters. Nobody took his OMN badge off of his belt, and looked at it. What am I without this? He put the badge in his pocket, and headed for the lobby. I’m what I’ve always been. Nobody.
* * *
“Okay, we’re tracing the call,” said Johmak’s voice in X-Ray’s ear. “Stay on the line. Whatever you do, don’t cut off the signal.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said X-Ray. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He was beginning to tire, his eyepiece needed a new battery, and he had a terrible crick in his back. He remained sitting in the darkness, waiting for his captors to come back in and “torture” him. He was somewhat familiar with real world torture techniques, but in a children’s comedy such as this, he might be subject to far worse ordeals, such as being forced to watch Disney Channel sitcoms, or having to eat nothing but ham sandwiches.
The door then swung open, and Alexander came in, carrying a Styrofoam to-go box. “Dinner is served,” he said. He set the box on the table and opened it, revealing a nice helping of fried rice.
X-Ray took no time to think about how delicious the fried rice looked, and instead looked Alexander right in the eye. He whispered to himself, “Facial recognition, go.” He covered the command with a cough, while the eyepiece computer ran the program, comparing Alexander’s face with that of every criminal on record in Spherus Magna.
Alexander sat down with the food in the chair in front of the table, took out a fork, and proceeded to begin eating the food. “Thought the dinner was for you, eh?” he said, laughing.
“Ha ha ha,” said X-Ray.
“What’s going on? X-Ray?” said Johmak on the other end.
“Wow, I’m so hungry, I could eat a computer!” said X-Ray.
Alexander looked at him strangely, and then went back to eating the rice.
“Yeah, I’d eat so much it would criminal!” said X-Ray. C’mon Johmak, he thought, put two and two together. “You’d need a database to categorize just how hungry I am!”
“Shut up,” said Alexander. “I’m trying to eat in peace.”
X-Ray mentally fingered his way through the HUD’s facial recognition program. There were seven matches, three of whom were named Alexander. Narrowing it down from there, there was only one who matched this Alexander’s appearance. Alexander Babikov. His current address, rap sheet, and other pertinent data were all there. X-Ray only knew of one person he could send the information to. It was the only phone number he had. He copied the screenshot, cut and pasted it into a text message, and sent it.
“I hope that nobody tries to serve me something spicy!”
Alexander glared at him heavily, saying, “Look, I want you to be quiet. I have been instructed not to kill you, and if you disturb my lunch, I will not kill you. I will only break—”
“—dance?” said X-Ray. He used Alexander’s momentary confusion to scan the mobster’s dinner. With Gordon Ramsey vision.
A voice audible only to him, in a British accent, said, “This dish is flipping awful. How anyone could allow it down their flipping throat is a secret upon which the gates of Karzahni are built. That place that made it, Lao’s Restaurant, is the worst Chinese restaurant in Fe-Metru!”
* * *
Nobody was on his way out of the Fe-Metru police station, when his cell phone beeped. He had a text message. At first, he thought he’d ignore it. But he suddenly realized that there was only one person who had his private number who would send him a decidedly unsecure text message.
Mata Nui… X-Ray!
He dug his phone out of his satchel, and quickly checked his text messages. He had two text messages, one of which was a screenshot of a file from the Spherus Magna Criminal Database, and another was a place. Lao’s Restaurant.
Nobody bolted back to the office, flashing his badge through security, until he got back to Pohatu’s office.
“Captain Nuva!” he said to the Toa of stone, who was at his desk. “I just got some text messages from X-Ray! He sent me a screenshot of a file from the SMCD, and the name of a Chinese restaurant. I think he’s trying to help us find him!”
Pohatu nodded, and said, “Let’s see them.” He picked up his phone, and said, “Get the D.D. of the OMN in here.” He put the phone down and turned back to Nobody, taking the agent’s phone from him. “Let’s see here…”
* * *
“No! No! Stop!” said X-Ray, making a futile struggle to close his eyes. It was horrible. It was awful. It was Disney television.
Alexander had reported his strange behavior to Mikhail, who decided to go right on to torture. In this case, he was forcing X-Ray to watch certain Disney channel sitcoms which shall not be named. X-Ray writhed in pain, he cried, he wailed, he screamed. Nothing helped.
“All this can be stopped, you realize,” said Mikhail, leaning over the table while the television played in the background. “Tell us what you know of your operation, and your suffering will end. Are the police onto us? Who told you where to find Alexander? What else do you know?”
X-Ray took a deep breath, looked Alexander right in the face, and said, “Go to Karzahni, dirtbag.”
Mikhail nodded, and picked up a remote control, turning up the volume of the television. “Enjoy the show,” he said. He turned to leave.
Mikhail stopped, and turned to face X-Ray. “Have you changed your mind, Mr. Raymond?”
X-Ray panted, and then said, “Yeah, I’m ready to tell you everything. Everything I know.”
Mikhail smiled, and turned off the television. He walked over to X-Ray, and said, “Start from the beginning.”
X-Ray got his breath back, and summoned his composure. He then began singing. “Rorschach and Deadpool! A nut and a fool!”
Mikhail blinked. “What?”
“He’s a mental case. Music’s not his thing. So I wrote the theme! I’m so talented! Copyright Deadpool! Copy and I’ll sue! I think that the song should end right here!”
Mikhail, having learned his lesson, had punched X-Ray with his right hand. Being a lefty, it was slightly less severe than his previous punch, but had succeeded in giving X-Ray a nice black eye. “Quit wasting my time!” he said, his voice contorted into a snarl. He seethed, and stepped back to converse with his partner in Russian. X-Ray chanced a smile. All he had to do was stall until Nobody and company could pull a big dang heroes moment.
Mikhail and Alexander finally left the interrogation room, without explanation. X-Ray wished for only a moment that he had Hydraxon’s enhanced hearing. Granted, he would have liked to have anything from Hydraxon right now, such as weapons, fighting skills, armor, tracking abilities, stealth, general awesomeness. But enhanced hearing would at least help him hear what was going on behind the outer walls of his prison.
I’m gonna have to find Hydraxon or Mazeka or somebody and ask him to train me, thought X-Ray. And then, he thought, C’mon, Nobody. Get here quick!
* * *
“Okay people, we’ve got it!”
Pohatu stood in a briefing room with a veritable army of FMPD officers and detectives and OMN agents. They consisted of MU inhabitants, Spherus Magnans, and humans. Thomob, Johmak, and Trinuma were present.
“We’ve received messages from X-Ray indicating who his captors are and where he might be,” said Pohatu, pointing to a picture of Alexander Babikov on the board. “Alexander Babikov is a bro in the Russian mob. He’s got no current warrants out for him, and his current address is listed in the Little Kiev neighborhood. His known associates include Mikhail Bogolomov and Ivan Krupin, who both have outstanding warrants. The bottom line here is that if we find Babikov, we find X-Ray.” Pohatu had made sure to fill the search squad with his best and most experienced officers, no mean feat considering that the FMPD was barely two years old.
“We’ve also got the name of this Chinese restaurant,” said Pohatu, continuing, “Lao’s Restaurant. It’s near the warehouse district, and from what we’ve got from Agent Nobody, X-Ray used Gordon Ramsay vision to ascertain where a dish of food he saw was from. It is our belief that he is somewhere in the vicinity of this restaurant. I want Pelagia and Sally out on the streets, looking for X-Ray. Check and double check every angle, leave no stone unturned. The goal is to find Babikov, and then we’ll find X-Ray. Use X-Ray’s case files that we were provided with by Agent Nobody, and find Barry Muldoon too. I want him for questioning yesterday!”
“Uh, sir,” said a human detective, Kent Lawrence, “don’t we need to get a warrant to search Babikov’s residence?”
“It’s called probable cause, rookie,” said Pohatu. “Any other questions?” He saw Pelagia raise her hand. The former Ga-Matoran was now a full-fledged Toa of water, with a mask of X-Ray vision which made her the perfect fit to lead the Missing Persons Unit. “Yes, Pelagia?”
“Captain, Sally was fired last month.”
“What?” said Pohatu. He needed Sally, a Toa of psionics, to help with the search by scanning the area for X-Ray. This required a search warrant, but Pohatu wasn’t about to be bothered with bureaucracy. “Who did that, and why?”
“…You did, sir. She used her powers to get her pals out of parking tickets, was caught drinking Mountain Dew on the job, and parked in your spot. Twice.”
Pohatu took off his mask and massaged his temples, and then put his mask back on. “Great. What do we do now? We need a Toa of psionics!”
Thomob, who had been sitting through the entire speech, suddenly had an idea. He shuddered at the thought of it, but it was the only thing to do. He said, “We can use Agent Nobody. He’s ready, willing, and able to help.”
“Get him in here!” said Pohatu. “He’ll have to do.”
When Nobody was summoned from out the hallway, he was briefed on their proposed order of operations. After Thomob informed him that he was no longer on administrative leave, Nobody said, “What do you want me to do?”
“Lead a team to the area around Lao Restaurant,” said Pohatu, “and conduct a mental scan of the area. How far is the range of your Mask of Telepathy?”
“Pretty far,” said Nobody. “I could scan pretty far around… if I could rely on it.”
“What do you mean, ‘if you could rely on it?’” said Pohatu, looking a bit cross. “We need you now!”
“It’s my Section 8,” said Nobody. “It does stuff with my mask powers.”
“Perfect,” said Pohatu. “Typical Fed.”
“I can use it now!” said Nobody. “Look, think of a number between one and one hundred.”
Pohatu didn’t say anything.
“It’s 47, right?”
Pohatu raised an eyebrow under his mask. “Yes…” He then realized that all of the other cops and agents were staring at the three of them. “What are you starring at?” he shouted to them. “Move out! You have your assignments! Pelagia and her uniforms, stay here!” The cops and agents beat a hasty retreat out of the briefing room, heading to their various assignments.
Once the briefing room was clear, Pohatu took aside Thomob and Nobody, and said, “The three of us, we’ll take the warehouse area search. We’ll just have to make do with… uh, Nobody…? Yeah, with Nobody here. We will stay updated with the rest of the team via the radio.” He turned to Thomob, and said, “You know your way around a weapon?”
“I can handle a Midak Skyblaster pretty well,” said the deputy director.
“We can get you one of those,” said Pohatu. He turned to the other cops, and said, “Right, gear up, boys and girls. We’re about to go on a search and rescue!”
Nobody, Thomob, Pohatu, Pelagia, and the two other beat cops (one male Jungle Agori and a human woman) headed to the armory to outfit themselves with their gear. The armor was bulletproof, and effective against hardened Thornax, but was of minimal deterrent to the various oversized and hyper-destructive weapons of the Matoran Universe, not to mention explosive Thornax. Some human city council-members had suggested banning such destructive devices, but the ever-practical Agori and MU inhabitant majority had defeated the notion, on the grounds that such a measure would merely move such weapons onto the black market, and into the hands of criminals. The law abiding citizenry would be left unarmed.
“Tell X-Ray to get off his soapbox already so we can rescue him!” said Nobody, annoyed. “Honestly, I know he means well, but Mata Nui, it totally distracts from the plot!”
“Who are you talking to?” said Thomob.
“The narrator, dangit!”
To be concluded.