Stated Purpose/Goals/Motives: Scorpion seeks world conquest at all costs[1,3,4]. Its agents often pursue smaller, simpler-seeming goals[5,7,9], but ultimately, Scorpion seeks only power and destruction of all rivals. While Scorpion occasionally makes a show of espousing some particular philosophy or “bringing order to the world,” its true goal seems to be to ensure its eventual dominion over the entire world and the elimination of all moral codes aside from “obey Scorpion,” which essentially translates into personal power for its members .
Rick Henshaw, wiki editor for Cape Chaser, was back at his computer, scribbling on a notepad as he went through the paper files he’d brought home from the Scorpion base. The hard drive he’d taken had been mounted in an external bay and was being decrypted by his laptop. He was hoping that the drive would have more useful information; the files so far were mostly human resources matters. Some of them had notes about individuals recommended by people in other bases, and the names of those doing the recommending was useful, but not enormously so given that first names were never used for anyone with a rank above Trooper - which is to say, nobody who would be doing recruitment. He was making copies of the files as he went through, just like he’d copy the drive once he got a chance.
After he got what he could from the files and drive, though, he’d be passing the copies on to capes he knew, with the originals going to the local TCPD, where they’d either be passed to the proper homeland defense branch or disposed of, depending on whether Scorpion had people inside the TCPD. Rick didn’t think it likely, but the copies were insurance, just in case.
He chose a particular file out of the stack, opened it, and began his real work.
“DeCryptKeeper?” asked a soft, low voice.
The editor nearly jumped out of his skin, and instinctively grabbed a letter opener to brandish as a weapon against the unknown intruder in his apartment. Wheeling around on the other person in the room, he saw someone in a fairly low-key super-outfit with black spandex, gauntlets, a cloak and a helmet that looked more protective than what you normally see on super outfits.
“Codebreaker,” he said, recognizing the ‘super detective’ of the Paragons, and gradually relaxing. “Geeze. I didn’t know you were that stealthy.”
“I’m not,” she replied. “You were just really, really really focused on that information.” She paused briefly before saying, “You have something personal against Scorpion.” It wasn’t a question, and Rick didn’t bother pretending she was wrong; instead, he just grunted.
“It’s mostly my irritation as an editor,” he dissembled, “but there’s some other things in there too.”
“Is one of the other things your artificial leg?” By now she’d moved over to the area around the copier and was thumbing through the copies. “Thank you.”
Rick frowned. He’d been about to complain about the very personal question she’d just dropped on him, but this caught him by surprise. The second sentence didn’t really follow from the first, so he didn’t know what she was thanking him for.
“For keeping them from destroying this information,” she explained, answering his question before he’d asked it.
“Oh. No problem. Sorry I didn’t stick around after, but I didn’t want to lose another leg.” Codebreaker nodded, her expression seeming like that statement had answered a lot of questions for her. It probably had, but Rick couldn’t imagine what most of them were. He’d known from his work on the Capechaser wiki that Codebreaker was both brilliant and unusual, but meeting her in person was a bit off-putting. It felt like she was having two different conversations with him simultaneously, and also doing other things as well. He decided to change the subject.
“How’d you find me, anyway? I didn’t think I’d have any problems until I brought the decrypted info to the cape community.”
She reached into a pouch and drew out a gift card, which she tossed onto his desk. It was the same one he’d used to hold the door open at the Scorpion base. “There’s still fourteen dollars on it. But you and Endless Appetizers should probably see other people for a while. You get a lot of these.”
“Duly noted,” muttered Rick as he returned to the file he’d been working on earlier. He pasted in a photo.
Codebreaker looked at what he was doing - from across the room, he noticed - and actually gasped a little. “Oh, that is very dangerous.”
“Sure is,” agreed the editor as he doctored one of the files. “But it could also get me into one of their bases long enough to learn more than just the contents of one hard drive which doesn’t seem to have a lot of majorly useful info on it. It’s probably just their local activities.”
The super-detective nodded. “You’re probably right. They wouldn’t have major organizational info on there because they wouldn’t need it at such a small branch. Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
“No, of course not. Do you have anyone who’s willing to impersonate a Scorpion agent? Someone who can be here before whoever they send to find and destroy the hard drive does so?”
She shook her head.
“Then I guess it’s up to me.”
She looked at him in evident confusion for a while. “You really hate them, don’t you. Are you one of the people who like talking about the reasons for their vendettas, or one of the ones who don’t?”
Rick answered her question by clamming up.
She sighed. “Please move aside. I’ll take care of the documents for you.”
He wanted to answer, but realized she’d almost certainly do a better job, so he went to the photocopier to get the next batch going.
Somehow, Codebreaker actually had most of what she needed to edit and forge documents on her person. Rick didn’t know where she kept it - especially not the extra lighter fluid - and wasn’t going to ask, either. Because I have manners, he thought sourly.
He went to get a drink from his kitchen and offered one to his unexpected guest, which she declined. While he was up he also checked to make sure the door to his apartment was locked again, finding that she’d taken care of that herself, and had also propped a chair up against the handle.
He brought the drink to her; she tensed a little when he got close enough to hand it to her, so he backed away again. He’d heard she was strange, but figured everyone has their own problems, and also decided he wasn’t one who could cast stones anyway. Instead, he left her to her work and went to copy the next folder.
“You walk like Anthem,” she said.
“Anthem. She walks like--” Codebreaker paused in the middle of the sentence. She spent a while thinking about what to say, before settling on “You were a Marine.”
“Are a Marine,” she amended, correcting herself before he could.
He nodded. “Right. Technically the ‘were’ is correct, though. Can’t stay in active combat with an artificial leg.” After a pause he amended, “At least, not the kind a guy like me can afford. Those crazy super-cyborgs are another story.”
She looked at him as though she wanted to ask about all that, and he sighed resignedly and finally gave in.
“My squad was sent after some terrorists holed up in a cave network in the middle east. We thought it would be the usual locals, people who’d have IEDs at the worst. It wasn’t what we thought it was, or maybe we got the wrong cave. Either way, we walked into a Scorpion nest. My squad was good, but we weren’t ready for crazies with magic spells and power armor. I’m the only confirmed survivor, and that’s only because I managed to survive the landing when I was blown free of the cave entrance by…” He frowned. “Something. I still don’t honestly know what it was. Their weapons are strange.”
She listened, paying rapt attention until he finished. “I see,” she said. After a moment, she continued, “I’ll help you with this. You will need a way to convince them that you were chased by those of us who raided their base. They’ll be here soon.”
Rick frowned. “You sound like you have a plan.”
She nodded. “I do.” She reached down and unplugged Rick’s uninterruptible power supply from the wall; it began bleating its alarm to let everyone in earshot know that it wasn’t receiving power. She took that, the laptop and the external hard drive and put them into a wad against Rick’s chest. “Hold these. We’ll be going into the parking garage under the building.”
They exited his apartment-- he turned the lights off as they went-- and took the stairs down. As they went, Codebreaker made some calls to her teammates. By the time they’d reached the garage, she was nodding to herself.
“All right,” she said. “They should be here soon.”
“Your teammates?” asked Rick.
Rick blinked, dumbfounded. He’d heard that Codebreaker could determine probable outcomes from the most improbably scant evidence, but he’d never seen it in person. Is that what was happening? Had she gotten her teammates to lead them here? Either way, he looked at some sudden noise from the far end of the garage and there they were - armored Scorpion troopers just as real as you please, fanning out and looking for--
“There she is!” said one of them, pointing at Codebreaker. And they charged.
Oh good, Rick thought. I was worried this might be something dangerous.
Out loud, he asked “Okay, so how do we convince them that--”
Codebreaker kicked him in the jaw.
Rick was a large man who had combat training and excellent physical fitness, but the Paragon was no slouch either. Maybe her suit augments her strength? he wondered as he reeled from the kick. Around him, the situation was continuing to worsen; another of the heroes from the raid, not one of the Paragons, had shown up and was using some kind of wind power to delay the Scorpion Troopers while Rick tried to keep himself from dropping his laptop despite Codebreaker’s assault. The other hero hit him with a small blast of air, and he fell over, finally dropping the equipment.
“This is what we need!” he heard Codebreaker say as the world swam around his eyes. “Help me get it out of here!” She scooped up the laptop and the hard drive and the power supply, still squealing its irritation at not being plugged in.
The Scorpion Troopers ran up after them, firing on the heroes as they left, the wind-powered hero carrying Codebreaker and her cargo away. “Damn! They’re getting away,” said one.
“Nothing we can do,” said another. “Drive’s a loss. We’ll need to inform citywide. What about this guy? Is he one of ours?”
“No idea. I think I saw him in the base when the capes attacked, running around like everyone else who was stuck in civvies.”
A fourth trooper was leafing through the files and saw the doctored one. “This one has his photo in it. Guess he’s new?”
The first one to speak was silent for a while. “If he’s not one of us, he knows too much. Either way he’s coming with us.”
Well, Rick groused internally, that’s one way to do it.
Written by William 'Robin' Strickland
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