- SIMaS: Chapter 20 – The Raid
- SIMAS Chapter 1 – Link Moss and the Magic Hippo
- SIMAS Chapter 2 – In-Flight Memories
- SIMAS Chapter 3 – Link Moss: Devious Mastermind
- SIMaS Chapter 4 – Curiouser and Curiouser
- SIMaS Chapter 5 – Welcome to Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 6 – So I Married a Supervillain
- SIMaS Chapter 7 – Little Talks
- SIMaS Chapter 8 – His Excellence, King Link
- SIMaS Chapter 9 – The Megardian Royal Family
- SIMaS Chapter 10 – How Double Lives Start
- SIMaS Chapter 11 – The Morning Report
- SIMaS Chapter 12 – Paradigms Shifting Without a Clutch
- SIMaS: Chapter 13 – Thunderstruck, Enlightening
- SIMaS Chapter 14 – Eris Lives
- SIMaS Chapter 15 – The Guardian Spirit of Megardia
- SIMaS Chapter 16 – Midnight Council
SIMaS Chapter 4 – Curiouser and Curiouser
Link awakened in the midst of a coughing fit. Wet, choking coughs shook him, worse than any illness he could remember having. There was a sinking pain in his neck and pressure around his wrists as they rested on the arms of the chair he was sitting in. Something else, a firm, but slightly yielding band kept him from bending too far forward.
“I’ve given you an adrenaline shot, plus something to flush the sedative.” a female voice said. It was the same sultry voice that belonged to the woman in the hotel bar. “It comes out as fluid in your lungs.”
Something pressed against his chest. “Spit.” she ordered.
Though he didn’t want to, his lungs were heavy and felt like they were burning, so he hawked to bring up the fluid and gagged as it came up as a semi-solid mass instead. The coughing became real choking as he forced as much of it out of his throat as he could.
The horrible glob hit the bottom of what he assumed was a bucket with a wet, disgusting plop. That combined with the feeling in his mouth and throat to convince his stomach that enough was enough. With another heave, Link vomited and sputtered, and coughed until he was empty; both his gut and his lungs.
“Done?” The woman asked in the same tone she might use to ask if a new pot of coffee was ready.
Link nodded, not trusting his voice after burning his throat raw throwing up so much alcohol and bile.
A napkin was wiped quickly and professionally across his lips and chin, then deposited in the bucket with another unpleasant sound. Then the pressure of the bucket against his chest was removed and by the ensuing clatter, set aside on a nearby table.
“You handled that better than most people. I’ve had people black out choking when being flushed of the dimethalphenzinthonal. Care to explain that?”
Again, he didn’t reply, afraid for his throat.
“It’s really best for you to cooperate.”
Link cracked his eyelids. Through his vision swam and everything refused to stay still, he could make to a table in front of him. It was white and made of hard plastic extruded into cords about a half-inch thick that were then woven into a pattern similar to a chain link fence. He’d only ever seen that before in lawn furniture.
The black haired woman from the bar was standing to his left. He couldn’t remember what she’d been wearing before because he’d been trying not to look, but now, she was wearing the kind of bodysuit he’d seen athletes wear: skintight, but with padded panels all over, articulated at the joints and around the abs. The suit was white, and she wore black, nylon tactical webbing over that with two holsters on her hip; one with a small pistol, the other with a boxy, black device with a molded plastic grip. Her hair was pulled back and hidden under a cowl that only left her face exposed.
Link had seen that uniform before on television. Through the remaining confusion left behind by the drugs, he dug through his memories for some context.
He remembered white suited individuals climbing around and under rubble. Was it from a natural disaster? No, with a bit more effort, he finally placed the scene: the wreckage from The Gigantic Ones’ attack on Charlotte, North Carolina. The white suits were there to investigate and secure the area, which meant…
Why the hell would the Extraordinary Response International Services kidnap him? They dealt with giant monsters and supervillains and terrorists that got their hands on super science; not regular, everyday guys like him. It made no sense.
So it had to be a dream right? Maybe he’d fallen asleep after having one too many rum and cokes. With Chloe at day camp and waiting for him, that was incredibly irresponsible and out of character for him, but it still made more sense than what it seemed like was happening. Maybe he should have some fun with it.
“Yeah,” He rasped, “I’ve got allergies. Every spring morning I’m coughing up worse shit than that.”
The woman’s hand came down hard on the table, making a noise that filled the room and jolted Link to proper consciousness. “This is not a joke, Mr. Moss.”
Link looked around. The room was white. Everything in it was white. The walls, floor and ceiling blended into each other with only a thin, black line indicating the presence of a door across from him. There was one other chair, also white and plastic, across from him, and a white, plastic tub on the table; probably the thing he’d thrown up in.
He asked the first thing that came to mind. “You… know who I am?”
“Thomas Lincoln Moss?” She asked, “Son of Frances and Margret Moss, brother of Virginia ‘Billie’ Moss? Father of Nathan and Chloe, and husband—ah yes, of Amanda Celia Moss nee Gorgias.” There was venom dripping in the way she said Amanda’s name. Whoever the woman was, she had a hale and healthy hatred of Link’s wife.
Looking at her sidelong to try and figure out why, he said, “That… would be me, yeah. What am I doing here?”
The woman started to pace a slow circle around the room. “Mr. Moss, you are currently in the custody of the Extraordinary Response International Services, being held in accordance with the UN resolution number 1835582 and the United States of America’s World Security and Intelligence Act of 2009.”
“Where are my kids?” Link asked as he started digesting the horror of what was going on.
“You will be held for questioning to the satisfaction of the Director of the Extraordinary Response International Services; a period that typically takes no more then fifteen days without charge.” She continued without regard to his question.
“Where are my kids?” He repeated more forcefully.
She continued pacing. “As always, the best way to expedite this process is complete cooperation.”
“Tell me where my kids are.”
Stopping across the table from him, she turned and leaned on the back of the other chair. “Mr. Moss, we want to know everything you know about the world’s supervillain population.”
Link paused to look at her and wonder if maybe she was just crazy and he was actually in a sex and/or torture dungeon under her house. “What? Listen to me. Tell me where my kids are. Right. Now.” He didn’t have any leverage, so he resorted to trying to sound as dangerous as possible.
“Your children are safe, Mr. Moss. Now answer my question. What can you tell me about the villains? Are they organized? Do they coordinate? What resources do they have, and what are their real identities?”
“What the hell are you asking me for? That’s your job, isn’t it?” Link tried to get up, but the strap across his chest and the cuffs on his wrists wouldn’t let him. “And ‘safe’ isn’t an answer. I want to see my kids right now!”
She leaned forward dangerously, caught sight of what was in the tub, and pushed it far enough so that she couldn’t. “The way to see your children as soon as possible is to play ball with us, Mr. Moss: no dissembling, no playing dumb. The only way you get out of this room and reunited with your children is if you start telling us what we want to know: usable information.”
Panic was rising in him now, and Link tried his cuffs again, straining until the metal cut into his flesh. Who did they think he was? Was it possible that some shapeshifter or master of disguise had done something horrible while wearing his face?
His breath was coming fast now, and he couldn’t make himself sound calm, let along dangerous. “I… I just want to see my kids. What do you want from me? Why me?”
The agent, for that’s what he was certain her job was called now, stood up and clasped her hands in front of her. “I don’t have to tell you that it isn’t hard catching and locking up the low level crooks and terrorists that just happen to have some kind of power or stolen tech. They rarely even have aliases or even take much care to cover their faces. And we can’t do much but drive off or seal away global threats like the Gigantic Ones, or Gilgonax the Supreme.
“But then there’s a middle ground; they’re still humans, still… mortal, but for them, what they do is their life. They protect their identities just as fiercely as the heroes, and from what we can guess, go about normal lives as civilians when not threatening the safety, security or wealth of the world. They’re the hard ones to capture because they’re smart. They plan contingencies and tricks, and then they just fade into anonymity.”
Link stared blankly. “And you think I’m one of them? When am I going to accomplish that? I have two kids to take care of, plus trying to get a business off the ground, or a job. Who do you think I am?”
The agent looked impassive and spoke slowly. “I think you’re Link Moss.”
He wanted to explode out of the chair; to grab her by the shoulders and shake while screaming obscenities until she explained something—anything to him. But he was chained down good and tight, so he settled for screaming. “Then what is all this about?! Are you people insane? You’re supposed to be protecting me and my kids, not kidnapping us and asking cryptic questions while keeping me chained inside a fucking marshmallow!”
Since Nathan had been born, he rarely used that word. It had taken long effort and a swear jar that eventually bought him a laptop, but he’d broken the habit and hadn’t used it for a decade. The streak was broken and he felt a string of that same word charging down the line to join it.
“Mr. Moss.” the agent said sharply, sounding like a teacher reprimanding an unruly student. “The reason you are here is because the Extraordinary Response International Services took notice of your patent record and discovered a pattern that led us to look closer at your finances and your failed businesses. As it turns out, your patents are, at times, identical to designs found in the nation of Megardia. Not only that, but the venture capital firms that backed your last three attempts at a business start-up were shell corporations that eventually led back to Megardian concerns as well.”
Link gawked at her. That made even less sense than anything he’d heard in the last few minutes. “Are… you saying that this Megardia place is stealing my ideas?”
The agent blew out an annoyed breath. “No, Mr. Moss. I am saying that your–”
And then the wall exploded.
More accurately, the outline of a wide circle flash-burned through it, at which point it was ripped forcibly outward to reveal a smoke and debris filled corridor. Before the burning section of wall even settled, the opening it created was filled with a group of heavily armed and armored soldiers.
It was impossible to tell much about them, garbed as they were in fully covering orange body suits covered with stiff, black armor sections over arms, legs and chests. Their chest panels all had a slash of yellow and orange across them that, taken with the rectangular pectoral panels, resembled a flag. Their black helmets covered with faces entirely, with bulky goggles over their eyes, and respirator masks over their faces. An orange ‘M’, trimmed in yellow was stenciled above their brows.
They carried heavy machine guns with under-slung grenade launchers and had extra ammunition for both, plus several types of grenades attached to tactical webbing strung across their bodies.
The chaos of their entry only had the agent off guard for a second or two. Keeping the table between herself and the assailants, she took a knee and drew her pistol. She fired twice into the first soldier; the first shot glancing off armor, and the second slipping in between hardened plates around his armpit.
Evidently, the body suit afforded some protection as well, because the soldier didn’t even pause before taking aim and firing a five round burst at her.
The agent rolled under the table ahead of the shots and touched her ear. “This is Moccasin, down in the interrogation level. We are breached! I repeat breached! Requesting immediate Level 1 security response: Lock it down!”
She would have said more, but one of the soldiers dropped to a knee themselves and fired one shot.
Link watched in horror was the agent pitched over backward, sprawling on the floor with a river of blood pouring out of her left eye and pooling on the floor under her head. Up until that moment, he’d been too shocked to react at all. That ended abruptly as he looked away from the downed agent, biting back a frightened sob.
He had no idea how or why he came to be in that place at that time, and now he knew he was going to die there. In the next few minutes, he would catch a bullet in the head and that would be it. He wouldn’t see his parents or sister again. Or Amanda. Or a kids.
God, how would they take it? Considering he would be killed in an Extraordinary Response International Services interrogations cell, what would they be told? Would they be told at all?
The agent, her now cooling body just feet from him, might have lied about the kids being safe. Nathan might still be at the hotel. Chloe might still be stuck at day camp. And Daddy was never coming home. It would be as if he’d just left them, and they wouldn’t just grow up without a father; They would grow up thinking their father abandoned them.
Link was shaking now. The images his head was conjuring drained him of all will and feeling. His life wouldn’t matter at all if that was the legacy he left his children with. He didn’t notice what the soldiers were doing until one of his cuffs clanked free.
He looked up to find one of them leaning over him, a small handheld device pressed firmly to the side of the remaining cuff. As he watched, the device caused the mechanism in the cuff to move until it finally clicked open.
“Now we’ve just got the chest band.” a young man’s voice came from under the helmet. His English was good, but heavily accented in a way that was slightly familiar. “Just a moment sir, we’ll have you out of here and safe soon.” Link goggled at him as he switched out the lockpicking tool for something that looked like a cross between a flossing wand and a tiny hacksaw from his tactical webbing
“Don’t move sir, this’ll be hot.” Link froze as the soldier turned a dial on the end of the item, causing a crackling red arc of energy to replace the ‘blade’. He then used it to very carefully start cutting the band away from Link.
Outside, gunfire erupted in the corridor. There were more soldiers in the hall than had come into the room, and they were firing at the defenders of wherever the place was on both sides. “Hurry it up!” Shouted an authoritative female voice from outside. “Control says we’ve got gas in three minutes!”
A tiny part of Link’s mind, probably related to his inner child, and apparently unaware of the insanity and danger of the situation, paused at her use of ‘we’ve got gas’ and wondered if she’d heard herself. Another part marveled at what inane things could go through someone’s head when they were about to die and/or be kidnapped.
“What’s going on?” He managed, hoping for once to get an answer instead of more questions and accusations.
One of the other solders, the one that killed the agent, snapped a fist-over-heart salute and spoke up, her voice young and feminine, which didn’t seem right for a murderer’s voice in Link’s opinion. “Sir. We have been dispatched by Her Most Gracious and Wise Queen Mageddo, Sovereign and Philosopher Queen of Megardia to recover you from detention and return you to the Enlightened Kingdom of Megardia as a matter of its continued prosperity and glory.” Her English was perfect with only a hint of an accent. But that accent weighed heavily on Link’s mind.
Her next words, however, brought all his other thoughts to a halt. “Your children were not detained by Extraordinary Response International Services. Her Most Gracious and Wise Majesty wishes you to know that you will be reunited with them soon.”
Soon wasn’t soon enough. Link had never gone as long as he had now without knowing where his children were, especially not when he’d just thought he’d never see them again. He didn’t know what came over him; he should have been afraid, should have been too drained by now to put up much of a fight. But a manic energy filled him and he reached out and grabbed the young woman’s arm.
He tried to grip it tightly, but the armor was unyielding. “No. Tell me where they are. Now. I need to know where my children are and if they’re okay.”
The woman didn’t try to shake him off, she only stared down at him briefly through the opaque lenses of her goggles. “You children are unharmed and will remain so, sir. They are in transit to Megardia, as you will soon be.”
The pressure of Link’s chest relented as the band holding him to the chair finally fell away.
“He’s free!” the man who’d been cutting it away declared unnecessarily.
Or possibly not entirely uselessly, as it seemed like the female soldier had been waiting for that moment to turn her arm so that she was holding on to Link. With strength that belied her size, she hauled him out of the chair. When he stumbled on his feet, she threw his arm over her shoulder to steady him.
“Come with me, Mr. Moss.” She instructed. “Can you walk under your own power?”
That was uncertain. The drugs that had been used on him still clung to his every action like a thin film. “Ugh.” he managed to say.
This was taken as a ‘no’, because the man stepped up, threw his arm over Link’s other shoulder and worked with his comrade to start dragging Link toward the hole in the wall. “Package is coming out!” he called.
“Clear the corridor!” shouted the female voice from earlier. Moments later, twin explosions went off, one at either end of the hall, followed by a temporary cessation of gunfire.
Link found himself being dragged out into a formerly white tiled hallway, which was now pockmarked with bullet holes, spattered with blood, and blackened with soot. There was a body on the floor in an orange jumpsuit, and more in white at either end of the hall.
And not too far away, there was another hole in the opposite side of the corridor; one that was open to the air and featured a half dozen repelling lines hanging down.
One of the soldiers in the hall pointed at that hole and spoke with the authoritative voice that had been giving orders. “He goes up first. Then Darvo.” She pointed to the downed soldier. “Then we follow extraction order.”
Link wanted to ask questions, but from above, a hissing noise began and an opaque, white mist started to descend.
The presumptive leader of the squad cursed in a language he didn’t know. “Gas is early. Get a breather on him, then get him out of here! Breather! Someone hand me a…”
Her voice faded for Link. He’d already gotten a lungful, and combined with the sedative he’d already been dosed with, it didn’t take long for him to drift off.
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