Suddenly, he pulled up short as a group of six men appeared from between the buildings and took up positions.
Two quickly deployed an odd looking rifle and brace, while the others held carbines. That is all save one, who carried a pistol and spoke with an air of command. "Fire Team Alpha, drop Wagner before he gets away. Bravo and Charlie see to Jackson." Two of the men with carbines nodded. All the men wore black jumpsuits with no visible insignia and moved like a well oiled team.
The two men with the rifle aimed and fired. A largish dart flew out and hit the already confused Jumping Jack, the commander smiled in satisfaction. Jack suddenly began spasming and screaming as electricity began to run down the wire of the giant taser. The one remaining man with a carbine covered the writhing villain. "Keep a close watch," continued the commander, "he's a tough bugger."
Glory vaulted over to where Jack was writhing on the ground and completed subduing him with a few quick strokes of her quarterstaff.
Glory then walked over to the commander. "Well, you guys arrived in time. Watch out for him," she said, aiming a thumb behind her at Jumping Jack, "I think his touch does something funny."
The officer nodded, "Noted. It's not in his file, but you can never tell with these guys."
Glory turned her attention to Core. "Do you know who the big feller is over there?"
"No idea," came the reply. "He doesn't seem hostile."
"Either he's a loon, or he's been away for a very long time...or both. He wants to meet with out 'Emperor'."
Glory turned to study Core a moment. "Perhaps we should get a negotiator over; they might have better luck with him than I did. If he is peaceful, we don't want to go and tick him off...."
The White Knight strode over to the Officer in charge of Fire Team Alpha: "Good evening Sir, I believe you'll find another of these criminals unconscious over there." He indicated where Blockbuster lay sprawled on the floor. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am The White Knight... and I have the honour to be addressing...?"
"Thank you, sir. Bravo and Charlie are already on it." Indeed, the two men with carbines were at work over BlockBuster's prone form. "My name is Wilkins." He looked around, "Quite a mess here. We ..."
He was cut off by the arrival of Jenny Peters, "Wilkins, eh? And just who do you represent, Mr. Wilkins?"
Wilkins rolled his eyes, "Delta, would you please escort this young lady out?"
The man next to him slung his carbine and began to firmly but gently remove Jenny from the area.
Glory commiserated with Commander Wilkins. "Civilians."
Fervor caught one of the police men not involved in the main conversation and quietly asked if they managed to capture Skylark.
The jumpsuited man shook his head and commented, "No such luck."
When the heated hero saw Ms. Peters being led out of the area he decided to tag along. He had long ago learned the power of the press and the necessity of having them on your side. Often it is the press that decides Hero or Menace and Fervor planned to be a hero.
Fervor joined "Delta" and Peters. Peters was kicking and yelling, the usual stuff about freedom of the press. When Fervor arrived she turned on him, "Hey hero, this guy's trying to stifle the press, are you gonna let him get away with that?"
As he watched Ms Peters being escorted away, the White Knight turned to Wilkins and said "The lady does raise an interesting point... who *do* you represent ? And do you have any credentials upon you?"
"We're IPAC, Knight," Glory said. "My code name is Glory, and we've had word that a crew sometimes called 'Heavy Firepower' have been spotted in Port Alexander. Some information suggests that they may have been planning to hit Proust Aerospace using the reception as cover. Looks like our intel was good."
She added as an aside to Commander Wilkins, "For once."
Wilkins took his time looking over the White Knight before he answered, "Yes I do have credentials, but they may not mean much to you." He shrugged and flipped open a card holder attached to his jumpsuit. The photo ID listed some simple information: the name "Wilkins", the initials "IPAC", and a few id numbers.
The initials IPAC rang a distant bell for the White Knight, something about Paranormal Activities.
"I'd like to thank you for your help, White Knight," continued Wilkins formally. "I was also wondering if you might accompany us back to headquarters? We'd like to debrief you, and also get some information." He turns to Glory, "You too, of course." He indicated the rest of the area," and the rest of these as well."
"Certainly, Mr Wilkins." said the White Knight. He turned to Glory and asked "Are you affiliated to this organization, you certainly seem to know them quite well?"
Glory nodded. "In a word, yes." She took a final survey of the scene, wondering what IPAC was going to make of Core.
By now an inconspicuous looking truck had backed into the space and the team, assisted by some black-jumpsuited men from the truck, was bundling Jumping Jack and Blockbuster in. Wilkins cornered one of them and told him to go find Fervor and extend the invitation to him. Then he walked toward Core and Nightshade.
Speaking of Fervor ...
"Ms." Fervor answered the irate reporter. "Right now, the officer is just doing his job. We don't know how safe the scene is and need to collect evidence without it being compromised."
Fervor then added with a smile, "Besides we don't know much at the moment. Why piss them off now when you can get more information by later by playing nice. The old story about bears, honey, and vinegar you know. I would be happy to answer whatever questions you have, though, like a said before the information that I have is spotty at best."
Peters harrumphed at Delta and shook free, "These boys aren't likely to say anything. I know the type. Now you, on the other hand ... an exclusive interview with Port Alexander's hottest new hero might very well be worthwhile."
"Then it is settled?" Fervor said as he led the reporter away from the scene. "Would you like the interview now or after we have had the opportunity to discuss this a little."
Pointing back at the scene Fervor added, "Your story would probably be better if you wait." Then in a lower mock conspiratorial voice filled with humor. "Besides, I wouldn't want to be portrayed as a dunce because of lack of knowledge."
"You don't have to worry about not showing up. I don't underestimate the importance nor the power of your pen. I would much rather have Skylark mad at me any day of the week."
The young reporter smiled at that, then frowned obviously torn, "Well, I'd love to have time to do this right. Do you have a number where I can call you to set up a meeting?"
Fervor's grin widened at the mention of a phone number. He kept his tone light hearted, obviously teasing as he replied."I think it's against superhero union rules. Having a phone and a non-public identity. A bit out-dated if you ask me. In today's world of beepers and cell phone's you would think any self respecting hero would have a way to get in touch with him. Though I do think a "Fervor Signal" flashed up in the clouds has a classic feel to it."
"How about I take your card and call you in 2 hours? That will give you some time to start your story and you can either question me over the phone or we can then set up a time to meet."
The young reporter seemed a bit leery of letting Fervor out of her sight, but acquiesced to the request. She handed the hero a card, "This is my cell phone, so I'll be there."
Fervor took the card from the reporter with a nod. "I must admit that I do occasionally like when a young lady shows a little disappointment at my leaving, you have nothing to worry about. Just two hours of patience."
Fervor then headed back to everyone else.
Wilkins approached Core and Nightshade carefully.
Core stood there, almost appearing to be a statue. The look on his face could have passed for confusion, but there was no real way to tell. Then he started to look about at all of the individuals gathered around, running left and right. Then he knelt on the ground, and appeared to begin praying.
Wilkins watched this for a moment, then spoke. "Ah, Mr. 'Core'? My name is Wilkins. Apparently this is all strange to you, and frankly, sir, you're strange to us. Would you like to accompany me to a place where we can try to sort out what happened here?"
In an undertone, Core muttered, "Finally. They take me to a place of reason. These humans do not seem to be capable of much without us." Then Core stood, looked directly into Wilkins eyes, "I would be obliged. Where might we be going?"
"My organization has an office not too far away where we can talk in peace. It's near a detention facility where we can address the problems presented by Mr. Wagner and Mr. Jackson." Wilkins waved his hand in the direction of the truck into which Blockbuster and Jumping Jack had been loaded. The truck rumbled to life and began to move off. A smallish limousine pulled in to replace it.
"Ah, the car has arrived." Wilkins looked over Core carefully, "I think you'll fit if you watch your head."
Core looked a bit perplexed. "Bump my head? While riding one of these chariots?" Core looked around at others getting in and out of cars. "Very well." Core walked over to the car, opened the door, and crawled into the vehicle. The tires sank noticeably as he did so.
Over by Core, Wilkins turned to Nightshade. "And you sir, would mind coming along with us to help get things sorted out?"
Nightshade had been taking in the proceedings, but spoke up now that Wilkins had addressed him. "Not at all," he said. "Lead on."
As Fervor returned to the group, another one of the jumpsuited figures came up to him. "Fervor, Mr. Wilkins wonders if you'd care to join him?" The man indicated the limo.
Since the party was over, Fervor had a couple hours of free time. "Of course, It will give me a chance to meet everyone."
He headed towards the limousine while mentally trying out different spins to put on today's activities. A lot of the people at the party tonight were going to be asking questions and some of them were important enough that answers would have to be given. Damage control is important. The reporter was a good start but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
Wilkins followed Core over to the car and gestured for the other heroes to enter.
Wilkins joined the heroes in the back seat of the car, pressed a button, then spoke, "Initial Debriefing, Paranormal Incident 4732, Confirmed. Jack Wagner aka Jumping Jack and Bruce Jackson aka Blockbuster in custody and en route to the PNDF. Paul Shirkler aka Panzer at large. New potential paranormal -- open a file -- Skylark, no cross-reference name, also at large."
He then went around and asked each of the heroes to state their names, and give brief summary of what had happened for the record.
The car travelled West, out of Commerce City and into the suburbs. Soon it passed out of the 'burbs and into the foothills outside the city. Before reaching the resort town of Goldwood Springs, the car turned off and after some further travel and began to pass through military style checkpoints. During this time, Wilkins gathered the reports of the various heroes and entered them into the record.
Finally the car stopped outside a low building of roughly circular outline. The doors were opened and Wilkins and the heroes stepped out. "Welcome to the PNDF, the Para-Normal Detention Facility," said Wilkins.
As he spoke the truck carrying the prisoners drove down a ramp that led under the building. Wilkins watched, "Most of the facility is underground, of course." He led the way to the building, "The administrative offices are up here." Inside, the PNDF looked much like any office, except for the ubiquitous jumpsuits and weapons carried by the personnel.
Soon, everyone was seated in a comfortable briefing room, and orders were being taken for refreshment. After a moment, Wilkins began. "Core, perhaps you could explain a bit more about your arrival?"
Core considered for a moment, then rumbled, "For aeons my people lived in the Earth, and were its protectors and guardians. Thousands of years ago, we were sealed off from the surface world by a misguided human. Since that time, my people have only rarely been able to come to surface world, and then only when called forth by human sorcerers.
"But yet, we were not completely severed from the surface. Things here which affected the Earth, could be felt in my home. Recently, we felt many such disturbances. With these disturbances came a weakening in the barriers that held my land apart from the surface world. Our wise men felt that perhaps they could," Core paused for a moment in thought, looking for a word, "force a person through the barrier along the line of the disturbance. I was selected for mine is the bloodline of the Guardians of the Surface.
"I held myself in readiness and waited for the call. When it came I hurried to the platform. When the disturbance came, the wise men performed their magics.
"And then I was here! The first of my kind to fully walk the surface world in millennia!" He looked around at the group. "There are more of you now than once there was."
Glory mulled over the impact Core's statement's had on her. She wasn't prone to believe in "magic," but certainly had seen the effect of superpowers; perhaps magic was but one more manifestation.
No matter. The reality of the situation was that the criminals needed to be secured, and everyone debriefed.
"Commander Wilkins, are the staging cells prepared for the prisoners? We don't want the civilians here kept from their debriefing," Glory said.
She turned to everyone else. "Your individual debriefings shouldn't take more than an hour each." A smile to help the pill go down more easily. "It's mostly painless."
Fervor thought of the possibilities that are presented by Core and in general they didn't sound to good. "Core, I admire your braveness. I don't know if I could make a one way trip away from my people. How about after this briefing you and I take a tour of the city. We need to get you familiar with the surface world, find you a place to live, things like that." Fervor kept the tone of his voice light.
"Oh and you might not want to mention the subterranean race story to the public yet. Your a pretty powerful fellow and it might panic people knowing there is a whole race of you who might pop in at any time. Being a Guardian will help though and once you have had more opportunity to earn the trust of the people, we can then tell them your whole story if you wish."
He then turned to Glory." I don't mind giving a statement, though I hope this is going to be a two way relationship. I never did like playing show and tell all by myself."
Wilkins cut in, "Of course not, Fervor. In fact, since you've brought it up, now might be as good a time as any for me to answer some of your questions. Glory can help with some of the details as well."
"I'm not sure that I know quite where to start. You seemed to have a pretty good idea of what was going to happen tonight." Fervor starts out. "Not that I'm complaining. If it wasn't for all of you a lot more people would have been hurt with me being one of them. Let's start with the basics. Who are you? What do you know about those we captured and those we didn't and what might they have been doing at the party?"
"We are the International Para-Normal Activities Committee, IPAC," Wilkins pronounced it 'eye-pack'. "In some ways we're like the UN or NATO, a treaty organization formed to deal with a specific purpose. We co-ordinate special response teams like the one I led today, special agents, and independent operatives." The sweep of his hand indicated to the group that he considered them "independent operatives".
"One of our main missions is this, the Para-Normal Detention Facility. Incarceration of para-normal offenders is a task for which conventional prisoners are poorly equipped." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, "Jackson there, even without his blades, could rip his way out of a maximum security cell-block in minutes. Which is where the PNDF comes in." He looked at the crowd, "You all did well enough in shutting that crew down when they appeared, but what was next? Drop them off at the police station?" He didn't really wait for a response.
"Anyway, that's who we are. For the next question, who *they* are ... Paul Shirkler aka Panzer, Bruce Jackson aka Blockbuster, and Jack Wagner aka Jumping Jack, are collectively known as The Fire Team. They're super-muscle for hire. We had heard they were in the country for some reason. There were also some indications that Proust Aerospace might be on their hit list. We've had the place under surveillance for a while. With the number of civilians around, we thought it made sense to drop someone into the crowd," he waved in Glory's general direction. "A good thought, it seems."
"Having clashed with the Fire Team, any information you would care to add to our files would be gratefully accepted."
"That leaves the woman ... frankly, she's as much of a surprise to us as she was to you."
Wilkins looked around at the assembled heroes, "That explains our position here, I think. Do any of you have anything to add to our knowledge of the situation today? Thoughts on the woman? Questions for me? Or Glory? Or even Core?"
Fervor said, "I don't think that I have much to add about the woman besides what you saw." Fervor answers Wilkin's query about the jetpacked woman.
"It did look like she was the leader, which makes sense if the rest of these guys are just muscle. I think you'll find out more information from them, but I can describe the battle in detail if it would help."
Wilkins replied, "Thank you, Fervor. We'll take care of that in the individual debriefings." He looked around. "Well, if none of you have any further questions, we can split up for those individual debriefings."
Wilkins waited for a moment, then continued, "Very well, then." He pressed a button on the desk, and a moment later the door opened and group of men and women entered. "These are the agents who will be debriefing you. Let me thank you in advance for your time, help and co-operation."
The agents each approached one of the heroes and politely invited their hero to accompany the agent. Each hero was led to a seperate room off a nearby corridor.
The issue closed with each hero being interviewed seperately behind closed doors ...