A well-placed pothole shook the A.I.D. truck hard enough to wake Isaiah from his unconscious state. “What the…” he traild off, suddenly very alert and confused by his situation. The would-be villain sat up straight, realizing his hands were stuck in something very heavy. Looking down, he saw the reason: a large steel restraining device. It encased his hands and arms almost a third of the way to his elbows. A rubber ring closed the gap between his skin and the rim of the device’s opening, completely isolating the lower portion of his libs.
Isaiah struggled for a moment, until a voice distracted him, “There’s no point, they aren’t coming off.”
Across from the panicking meta was his short-lived partner in crime, still covered in dust from the failed bank heist. “Ricky? Where the hell-”
“-In the back of an Argus truck, dipshit!”
“I can see that!” Isaiah shot back, realizing just how rough the man setting across from him looked. He wasn’t quite human, more like a cross between a dinosaur and a pet iguana. Some of the armor plates that had been relatively uniform before his tangle with Wrath were missing. Raw patches of flesh were exposed and caked with dried blood.
The plate that covered his chest still sported the imprint of a fist. It almost seemed like Ricky was folded in half along the crater. “Why haven’t you changed back?” Isaiah asked.
“Because of the fucking power dampeners in these cuffs! I’m stuck halfway.”
“Shit,” Isaiah muttered.
“You just had to rob the bank in the Regent’s, the fucking Regent’s, backyard, didn’t you?”
“How was I supposed to know they’d be right there?”
“I don’t know, but we should have fucking gotten out when we had the chance! You heard what that guy with the wierd tatoos said: He was going to draw the Regents out! And you decided to rob a bank!”
“Hey! It was your idea to try and get some money!”
Ricky didn’t reply, instead he let out a noise that could easily be mistaken for a growl and tried his best to turn away which was difficult in the openess of the truck’s rear.
The pair rode on in silence for what felt like hours to both, but was only a few minutes in reality. Eventually, the van rumbled to a stop and two muffled thumps could be heard as a pair of Argus soldiers walked around to the back of the van and swung the doors open.
“On your feet,” One of the soldiers ordered. The rifles they were holding quelled any thoughts of resistance from the two villains. Obediently, they shuffled to the end of the truck and hopped down. A glance of their surroundings told the two metas they were at Argus’s Chicago Field Office.
Like nearly all Argus buildings, it was built like a fortress. What it purposfully lacked in height, it made up for in land area and sub-levels. The soldiers escorted the two men though an entrance flanked with its own set of guards. Unlike the main lobby which was pristine with pleasant potted plants and a polished floor with the Argus logo embossed proudly in its center in front of a smiling receptionist, this entrance lead to a dull, dingy hallway.
The further Isaiah and Ricky were led into the heart of Argus’s Illinois operations, the more sets of doors that were put between them and freedom. Isaiah tried to glance at his herptile associate to maybe glimpse some kind of comradery or rapport of shared suffering, but Ricky wouldn’t meet his glance. When the small entourage reached a hallway liked with identical white doors on either side, the duo was split up: Isaiah taken through a door on the right, Ricky through one on the left.
“Sit down, an Argus representative will be with you shortly.”
With the guard’s only order spoken and the door shut and audibly locked behind him, Isaiah surveyed the sparse room. Four dome security cameras peered down from the corners of the cubical room at the table that sat in its middle with one chair on either side. One side of the table had a rough “A” shape pattern that looked similar to his restraints on it with the words “Place Cuffs Here” printed on either side of it. Both the table and the chairs were bolted to the ground and close enough to each other that Isaiah didn’t have room to comfortably sit with the cuffs anywhere but above the table.
Settling into his seat, the cuffs flew to their matching outline on the table, hitting with a clank as metal struck metal. Isaiah gave it a quick tug, but the cuffs wouldn’t move, magnetized to the table. “Shit,” the meta said aloud. With some effort, he managed to rotate the cuffs so that he could sit straight in his chair without having to bend his arms awkwardly. For a while, he struggled to lift the restraints off the table to no avail. It would take superhuman levels of strength to free the metal cuffs from the effect of the magnet: strength nearly impossible under their power dampening effects.
With nothing else to do, Isaiah absentmindedly looked around the room, but there was almost nothing to look at. The wall opposite him was dark glass. A two way mirror he figured, having watched enough cop shows to guess as much. He flashed a mockingly large tooth-baring smile before reverting to his resting bitch face. Other than that, there wasn’t anything but padded walls and a floor that seemed to be made of a rubber material. A faint brown stain on the floor near the edge of the table caught the villain’s eye. Blood, probably.
More than one hour rolled by in roughly the same bored eye pattern. Occasionally, Isaiah would yell vainly to be let out, but no relief from the boredom or isolation responded. Eventually, a small viewing window in the door slid open, revealing a guard’s eyes that scanned over the interior of the room quickly before sliding shut again. A click announced the door had been unlocked before it swung open and a man in a suit walked over the seat opposite Isaiah and sat down, clearly in no hurry.
“Isaiah Cooke, I am Mr. Collier, a legal representative for Argus and I will be handling your trial today under Article Three, Section Four of the St. Petersburg Accords. Should you seek to appeal your case to a United State’s judicial court, a transcript of these proceedings will be provided at your request to your legal counsel.
“Also, per Article Three, Section Four of the St. Petersburg Accords, a sanctioned Telepath whose identity will remain anonymous for their safety will assist in this trial. They can and will determine the truthfulness of your responses. Do you understand?” Mr. Collier asked as he laid a folder on the table and flipped open.
“Yes,” Isaiah muttered.
“Good. To begin: do you confirm your name is Isaiah Pierre Cooke, Metahuman Registration number six nine eight five two?”
Mr. Collier looked down at the table next to his folder where a light built into the metal blinked green. The well-dressed man nodded before looking at the papers he had brought with him.
“Alright then. You were flagged as a mutant at birth, however there is no record of you manifesting powers on file. When did you first manifest your abilities?”
Isaiah remained quiet for a moment as he tallied up how long it had been. “Five days ago.”
Another green light.
“You were reported as being able of emitting blasts of a violet energy and creating a dome out of said energy. Is this correct?”
“Is there anything else you could tell us about your abilities?”
“Now on to the inciting incident. You along with one accomplice confirmed to be Ricardo Morales attempted to rob Gentry Edwards bank on Madison street. You use your abilities to collapse the front of the building, showering pedestrians with rubble and injuring five individuals.
“You are charged with illegal power usage, powered robbery, and injuring civilians as the result of power usage. Do you deny these charges?”
“Hey, there wasn’t anyone outside that bank. The street was empty!”
“Do you deny the charges?”
A red light.
“Your response has been found to be deceptive. I will repeat the question and grant you an opportunity to change your answer. Do you deny the charges?”
The villain weighed his options for a moment. The telepath wouldn’t let him lie. “No,” he sighed.
“As per the precedent for similar violations of the Accords, you are sentenced to five years in Site II with the possibility to be transferred to Site I after thirteen months for rehabilitation.”
Mr. Collier scribbled something on several of the forms in his folder before collecting everything and getting up. “Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Cooke. I hope you the best at conforming to society.”
“Thanks,” Isaiah muttered as Collier knocked on the door, earning another opening of the viewing window. Once the guard confirmed it was the Argus rep on the other side, he opened the door, leaving Isaiah alone.
“Welcome to Durban, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a lovely twenty-five degrees centigrade: that’s seventy-seven degrees for you Americans. Now. We’ll be touching down in…”
Isaiah tuned out the woman shouting from the front of the plane as the Argus ship flew over the South African city. Three days ago, he was a free man. Now he was on a one-way ticket to Site II. It was known as Asphodel in the meta community; a normal security prison with the added feature of being coated in power dampeners. It was where common criminals with powers were sent.
What most people usually think of when they hear “villain” or “supervillain” were locked away in the depths of Site III. Wherever that was.
After the VTOL landed, the rear ramp of the plane lowered, and Isaiah shuffled along with the two columns of prisoners as they were led across the tarmac. Isaiah stole a glance around at the small swarm of guards all armed and sporting body armor. They didn’t seem on-edge though. They were standing around in small groups talking to each other. The airport where the VTOL had landed was small with only a single runway that had a nice view of the Indian Ocean.
Up ahead, a small caravan of prison transport trucks was waiting. Two for the men, two for the women. Once the doors of the trucks were closed, the scenic views were hidden from sight yet again. After several hours of being trapped in a window-less plane for several hours, it was almost depressing to have the sun hidden again.
Whatever he was feeling, Isaiah didn’t have any say in the matter. He just kept his jaw set and head low as the trucks trundled along. He hadn’t ever been to Africa, but the small peek he’d gotten on his way to the truck surprised him. It didn’t look all that different from some areas in Illinois. At least it wasn’t all a big desert like he thought.
At the gate of Site II, the trucks separated according to gender and drove around to two separate processing areas. When Isaiah was taken inside, he and the other prisoners were lined up in front of a wall with slots cut into it. The guards, from the safety of a raised walkway, instructed them to insert their cuffs. Isaiah obeyed, and the rubber-like material retracted, allowing him to pull his arms free.
Some of the metas tried to use their abilities right away, but quickly realized it was pointless. There were other dampeners somewhere keeping them suppressed. Still, it felt good to feel air moving on his lower arms again, but the momentary relief was dashed when they were ordered to change into the prison’s jumpsuits they found in a draw under where their cuffs were released. Isaiah tugged the jumpsuit on and noticed a round bit of metal over the heart.
A LED indicator glowed ambiently in the middle of the badge and Isaiah felt the buzzing in his jaw grow noticeably stronger. Another power dampener. Great.
Across the room, Ricky shot another sour glance at Isaiah. He had been allowed to use his powers just enough to shed his reptilian appearance. Still, he looked bruised and battered. Getting hit by Wrath, even with organic armor was enough to crack ribs. Not able to do anything about his once-partner’s newfound hatred, Isaiah allowed the guards to lead him off to his cell.
Several hours later, a man came waking up the road. It wasn’t that far of a walk from the nearest houses, but none of the locals would be stupid enough to come this close to the Argus facility. Stranger still, the man was dressed in an expensive suit and sported a nearly shaved head of bright red hair.
“Hey, you see that?” One of the guards asked her partner, giving him a nudge to wake him up from a light nap. “Hm, what?” the man asked, blinking the drowsiness from his eyes.
“Someone’s walking up the road.”
“Maybe their car broke down?”
The man sauntered up to the guardhouse, a sly smile resting on his face. “Evening,” He said in a faint midwestern accent. “I’m here to break out Isaiah Cooke and Ricardo Morales.”
Laughing the man quickly added, “Sorry, it was a joke in bad taste. I guess you could say I’m their lawyer.” The faces of the guards relaxed a bit, and the male guard even let out a forced chuckle as he picked up what he thought was a business card the strange man had slid under a slot in the bulletproof barrier.
“Well, Sir, I believe you’re out of luck. We don’t have visitation here…”
All levity disappeared when the guard read the card with four words sloppily written on the front: “Get Ready To Die.”
“I lied. It wasn’t a joke,” The suited man said with a smile. With a flick of the man’s hand, the male guard’s neck violently rotated with a sickening crunch. The female guard’s hand flew for the alarm, but stopped, inches away. She strained, her hands trembling with effort, but she didn’t get any closer.
“Oh, what the hell; I suppose it won’t be as fun without a challenge.”
Suddenly, under an unseen force, the woman’s hand slammed forward. Hard. She cried out in pain as the bones in her hands broke. An alarm blared and the prison became a hive of activity. The woman tried to draw her sidearm with her undamaged hand, but something pulled her forward and slammed her head into the glass barrier.
With the first set of guards taken care of, the suited man walked around to the gates that barred him from moving further inside. In a small swirl of red and black energy the man vanished, reappearing instantly on the other side. More guards came running around the corner and immediately opened fire. To the guards’ horror the bullets slowed to a stop, remaining suspended in midair.
“My turn,” the red-haired man said, his sly smile turning feral. Knives appeared in the air around him in the same swirling of smoke-like energy that surrounded him when he teleported. The knives launched forward, impaling the helpless guards. There weren’t enough knives to kill all of them in one go, but as soon as a knife impaled a target, it vanished only to appear inches from another guard’s heart.
Done with the second batch of guards, the suited man traveled further into the prison. Heavy steel doors slammed down in front of him only to be lifted by up by an invisible force. After he raised the third door, the man was met with more guards opening fire on him.
The man vanished, appearing just behind the guards. He was in some sort of security hub. There were several hallways branching off to cell blocks and a few glass-separated control rooms. An idea crept into the suited man’s head. Spiderwebbing cracks rapidly spread through the glass right before it all exploded outwards.
Startled guards turned around just in time to see a sea of glass shards orbiting the suited man before one of the slivers of glass slammed into their eyes and face. The man turned and chose one of the hallways that led to Prison Block B. It was sealed off by a door of metal bars. As the man raised his hand, the sturdy bars began to creak and moan as the man’s telekinesis exerted his will.
When the gap was comfortably large enough, the man stepped through and walked down the row of cells. Isaiah pressed his face against his cell door, trying to see what the commotion was. The lights in his cell flickered breifly before the suited man stepped into view.
“Mr. Cooke, stand back.”
Hearing the malice in the voice, Isaiah obeyed. He had stepped out of the way just in time too. The door came flying off its hinges and crashed into the cell’s back wall. “Who are you?” Isaiah asked, wishing he could access his powers like this man somehow could.
“That isn’t important. All you need to know is that we have a mutual employer.”
Isaiah’s eyes went wide. “Look, It was Ricky’s idea to split, I didn’t take his money or-”
“Our employer is aware. However, you promised to do a job for him, and he is still in need of your services.”
“-It wasn’t a request,” the man said, holding up his palm. A small black sphere exploded from his hand. The goo had yellow marking that seemed to shift and glow as it expanded. Isaiah was quickly enveloped the substance, and no matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t get free.
Once the man and been entirely enveloped, the goo rapidly shrunk with Isaiah inside. It melted into a puddle on the floor before pulling itself back into its original shape.
The suited man bent down and plucked the marble off the gorund.
“One down, one to go.”