Hint 18. Keep Your Emotions Under Control
The atmosphere in the station is very tense as I arrive for work the next morning. No one seems to be looking each other in the eye. Alex started work two hours before me and as I walk over towards my desk, he has his chair angled outwards, showing Tim his back.
“Alex,” Tim is saying, leaning over the angrily stacked barrier of desk stuff that Alex has erected between them. “I’ve got super strength, do you really think a pile of books is going to keep me out?”
“Don’t talk to me,” Alex snaps, arms folded. Apparently he’s right in the middle of a colossal strop. I take it I don’t have to be angry with him myself. He had no idea about Tim.
I found a recording of Shark’s broadcast last night and made sure to watch it through. It appears that half of the people I work with are Sapient+ and no one even knew, even those of us that frequent The Facility ourselves. For the first time, I find my blatant abuse of protocol is hailed as a good thing. Everywhere I turn, people are whispering ‘well at least Maya was honest’. I think Gloria might have gotten away with it too if her super power hadn’t been so suspicious. Apparently she has an affinity for technology and now everyone’s convinced the source of all her gossip is that she’s been tapping into people’s phones.
It’s actually quite juvenile but as everyone I pass without powers gives me a cheery, pointed hello, I decide I like being queen honesty.
“Morning, Alex,” I say, dropping into my seat. “How was the commute?”
“Don’t talk to me.”
I grin, throwing Tim an apologetic look. Alex catches me in the act.
“Don’t look at him like that, Maya. He broke our Playstation controller with his big fat superhero hands.”
“Well, if I remember correctly Alex, we haven’t been able to play Playstation for a month and a half because you smashed the other one against the wall. So I’d say you’re just a liable with your teeny tiny human hands.”
“Yes, it is. Tim’s was an accident and he apologised,” I pause, remembering the incident with the controller, “… eventually. Yours was just a childish tantrum.”
“I don’t know why I’m bothering,” he says. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re one of them.”
“Hey!” I say, standing. “We don’t talk like that. We’re all one of us.”
Alex looks away, grumbling angrily. He knows he’s in the wrong. For a brief stint he was one of the ‘them’ too but then The Facility reversed his powers. That’s a whole different story but one he shouldn’t forget.
“Maya,” Jack says, poking his head round his office door. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
“No,” I reply, whipping round to face him, all caught up in my authority. “I’m not ready to talk to you yet.”
I stride across the station. In a rare act of civility, I knock before letting myself into Ripley’s office.
“Look at this,” he says, tossing a newspaper across his desk without even questioning why I’m there. There’s an entire double page spread dedicated to Shark’s list.
“They’ll get over it,” I say. “I don’t even think Alex is angry that Tim’s Sapient+, it’s just that it brought up Controller-gate again.”
Ripley narrows his eyes.
“I’m not even going to ask what Controller-gate is,” he says.
“That’s probably for the best.”
Ripley sighs, leaning back in his chair.
“It’s not the list that I’m worried about,” he says, “it’s not the boys. This is the real problem.” He leans forward, jabbing his finger into a line at the bottom of the spread.
I read it, biting my lip. The paper promises an entire series dedicated to each enforcement faction, detailing more than just names and powers. There will, apparently, be pictures.
“Oh God,” I say, “I hope they don’t use my official photo. I look like sin.”
“Kurtis,” Ripley says, as though he’s talking to someone particularly slow. “With public opinion the way it is, I can’t send you out there if they know what you are. Anything could happen.”
“Hmm.” Pulling out the chair opposite Ripley’s desk, I sit. It takes me just ten seconds to come to a decision and I lean forward, saying something that will almost certainly send Shark off at the deep end. I’m not like him, though. I may want change but I don’t want chaos; I still think we’re the good guys.
“Well if it’s inevitable, Chief, then I think we should preempt them.”
“And what do you mean by that?” He folds his arms, looking inherently suspicious of anything that may even vaguely be described as ‘progressive’.
“Get me a little badge, nothing showy. It’ll just say ‘Sapient+’ and I’ll pin it to my lapel. Everyone can get one. Look at your station, the public’s just the same. They’re not angry because we are Sapient+, they’re angry because they don’t know who’s who. They don’t know who they can trust. They’re angry because we lied, so let’s stop lying.”
“I don’t know, Kurtis. Isn’t that just going to turn people into targets?”
“Nah, Chief. The Met doesn’t have the kind of supers that can ‘make you disappear’ as that Shark guy so elegantly put it. We’re not the ones they need to worry about and they should know that.”
“I don’t know if I’ve got the kind of authority to push that sort of thing through.”
“Then don’t push it through. Just do it.”
“Get out, Kurtis,” Ripley chuckles. “You’re a bad influence on me.”
I stand, taking him at his word. It’s probably about time I got down to some work anyway: Amber can’t email gossip to herself.
“One more thing, Maya,” Ripley says as I reach for the door.
“What happened to your eye?”
“What this?” I touch the tiny mark on my eyebrow. The Lady was right, it is going to scar. But it’s quite small and I’ve taken the gauze away. Only Ripley would notice it. “It’s nothing.”
Ripley just grunts, giving nothing away, and waves me out of his office.
“Good idea, Maya,” Gloria says as I pass her desk. “I’d wear that badge.”
“What’s your problem?” I ask. “People are already pissed at you getting up in their business. You think reminding them that you listen to conversations through walls is going to help you now?”
She grumbles and the people round her desk smother their grins. I feel a bit bad. It’s not Gloria’s fault that she’s a chronic gossip. Everyone is OK with her listening in to Ripley’s office, she was probably just trying to remind them that she’s not all evil.
I take a deep breath, trying to forget about it. It’s time to deal with Jack Docklen.
“No,” I say, taking one look at his face as I stride into his office. “You will not apologise to me. You don’t get to soothe your conscience that way. You threatened me, you hurt me, and you’re damned lucky I don’t report you. We shall leave it at that.”
If I could, I’d have nothing more to do with him. I just want to turn tail and take my own life back but the concept of revenge is too tempting and I force myself to stay with him. I’ll stay just long enough that he can set himself up for the fall we have planned, just long enough for him to make this whole Shark case all about Mr J Docklen.
“No. What did I just say?”
“Alright,” I say, ignoring his puppy eyes. “We’re professionals.”
Jack slides his palms across the desk, resting light fingers on the back of my hand. I remove my arms from the table immediately, pretending to stretch.
“Tell me about this new development,” I say. “What’s Shark up to now?”
His eyes darken.
“Fucking Townhall,” he says. “They wouldn’t let me anywhere near. I’m in the dark.”
“Well we’ll have to leave the details for later,” I say. “Let’s talk motives.”
Jack manages to roll his eyes and shake his head at the same time.
“No point,” he says. “That list was incomplete - it’s just information he pulled from people’s heads. He didn’t find any files in Enforcement. Enforcement doesn’t even have that information, not fully. Only The Facility knows. He’s trying to stir up discontent, get the people on his side before he starts dishing out serum. He’s an idealist, he wants to think he’s doing right. That’s how he manages to do such terrible things: he can convince himself it’s always for The Greater Good.”
“You sound awfully confident.” And awfully accurate.
“No one knows Shark like I do, Maya. He’s a psychopath.”
“Then they should let you in,” I say. “You’re the one assigned to this case. You’re the one with experience.”
Jack narrows his eyes for a second.
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying we go down there. Right now. We need to see that crime scene.”
By the time we leave Jack’s office, the atmosphere in the station is slowly returning to normal. This is due, in part, to Martin Scofferson, recently outed for his regenerative healing. He’s letting people vent their anger with the riot gear. This means tasers, batons and a brick someone brought in from the street. Amber’s bargaining with one of the handlers of the attack dogs and he looks like he’s seriously considering it. They’re showing no mercy.
“Ouch,” Jack breathes at my side.
“Let’s get out of here before some bright sod decides to shoot him,” I say. “Ripley will go ape.”
Three hours later, my whole life has gone wrong. I hold my head in my hands as Alex picks up the remote, smirking. I’d like to pretend I don’t know how it happened. It certainly never seemed like it was going to happen when we set off for a jolly afternoon of crime scene investigation. However, as Alex is so gleefully demonstrating, it’s all there documented to remind me exactly how such a pleasant morning went so drastically down hill.
“Shall we watch it again?” He says, shuffling about on our sofa, making himself comfortable.
He ignores me, pressing rewind.
“I’m so happy I put the news on record,” he says.
“Why would you even do that?”
“You were hoping for stories on The Lady, weren’t you?”
“Hey, we’ve been over this. Whisper too.” Alex looks at me, cruel joy leaking from every pore. “But I got stories on you instead. I can’t decide which show is my favourite: Jack and Maya in the corridor tv or Jack and Maya on the news.”
“Well I hate Jack and Maya on the news, so can we not watch it again please?”
“Nope.” Alex pops the p and presses play.
I sigh, reserving myself to my fate. Townhall had still been crawling with news vans as Jack and I arrived this afternoon. It’s my fault really. I brought him there to give him a chance to publicly claim responsibility for the case, like we’d planned. I wound him up until he was verging on spontaneous combustion… the problem was that I inadvertently managed to wind myself up too.
“Maya,” Alex complains, “you’re not watching.”
I roll my eyes, watching as Jack marches up to Townhall’s impressive gates. By the time the cameras had started rolling, he was already apoplectic. They missed our twenty minutes of patient explanation, of badge showing, of superior officer requesting.
The only consolation is that I got what I wanted. And I get to watch it again and again, Jack Docklen screaming into the camera.
“Card Shark is my responsibility. Mine. I’m on this case. I’m the only one that can take him down. These Townhall thugs know nothing.”
“They know one or two things,” Alex says, fast forwarding past the full ten minutes of footage where Jack does nothing but rattle the railings and rant. “Take this for example,” he says, returning the video back to normal speed. “They know how to knock a man flat out with a single hit.”
I have to watch a Townhall guard hit Jack in the face with the butt of his gun for the third time today. It was worse in person but it doesn’t exactly get better with repetition. He goes down like a sack of shit and Maya Kurtis makes her first lead appearance on national news.
“Please Alex,” I beg, “I don’t want to watch it again.”
“But you’re such a knight in shining armour!” He exclaims, watching me rush to Jack’s side. They have to bleep out every other word that falls from my mouth. I’m in full police uniform and I’m swearing like a sailor.
Ripley’s going to kill me.
“You know,” Alex says as we watch me sling one of Jack’s arms over my shoulder and start to drag him, stumbling, away. “The first time I watched this, I thought ‘Good old Maya, she’s getting him back for the Damsel in Distress moment she had in episode one of Jack and Maya on the news’. But…” he drags the word out, waiting until just the right moment, “then this happens.”
He doubles over in laughter, rewinding just the last twenty seconds. I watch the reporter from Caverny approach me with her bitchy smile. I watch myself suddenly lose my shit.
“Oh God…” I groan.
“Cat fight!” Alex shouts, punching the air like a fat American at a football match.
The worst bit is when we fall into the camera and the whole shot goes wild. It looks like a scene from a home movie. The kind where someone gets hurt but everyone on Youtube laughs.
“I’m never going to stop watching this,” Alex declares ecstatically, “never ever ever.”
“Well that’s a lie,” I say. “You’ve got to go to work eventually.”
“Nope, wrong again, Maya,” he announces with pride. “I got suspended.”
“What!? I just attacked a news reporter and I didn’t even get suspended. What did you do?”
“I shot Scofferson,” he says. “Did you know he can regenerate from a point blank gunshot wound in forty two seconds? It was a scientific experiment really. Also, did you know that Tim can rearrange an entire face with a single punch? I don’t mean in a metaphorical sense, I mean Martin’s nose ended up down by his chin. Took him a full minute and four seconds to recover from that one.”
“Did Tim get suspended?”
“… yeah. And Martin, poor sod.”
“So the only reason I’m not suspended is because everyone else is already.”
“Probably. Amber told me all the men had to share the girls’ toilets because James wanted to see how much water Simon could lift in one go and he flooded the bathroom. I was already suspended at that point so I didn’t get to see it but I still think my experiment was better.”
“You shot someone,” I say dryly, laying on the disapproval.
“Yeah,” he says, holding up a finger and pressing rewind, “but you and Jack Docklen took on Townhall. All he managed was a gun to the face and you got in a bitch fight on national tv. At least my experiment was successful.”
I don’t know. I left the station this morning with the goal of pushing Jack into publicly declaring responsibility for the Shark case. If we exclude my reality tv moment with shiny McMicrophone-in-your-face, my trip to Townhall was surprisingly successful.