"...Contained fumbles with the knot on Koyotie's sash with yellow gloved fingers, now stained red with blood. 'Damn knots,' he mutters in the weird, flat monotone of the speech synthesizer in his helmet, then closes his fist around the sash. There's a slight sizzling sound and tendrils of smoke rise; and in a moment, he's burned through it. He yanks the cloth from around Koyotie's waist, and bundles it up into a makeshift pressure bandage. Contained presses down on the wound with one hand, and pushes against the roof of the car with the other for leverage, since he's too light on his own push down very hard.

The other occupants hear a slight clattering sound when Contained first yanks the sash away. "Don't forget to grab her wallet before we leave," he says, 'last thing Koyotie needs is for Mayhem Inc. to start maxing out her credit cards." The green light from his visor flares slightly. "Step on it, Alex. I'm no doctor, but I can see blood flowing into Koyotie's abdominal cavity. This looks bad...."

Alex was more than a little sore and worn out from the battle, but he would survive. The only one who managed to actually hurt him was Claymore, and that was an underestimation on his part. He would not make the same mistake again... especially since Claymore and his entire family was going to be behind bars.

It would take a few minutes to figure out the layout and get comfortable in Mayhem, Incorporated's customized vehicle, though it was just as well, the others needed to get Koyotie into the truck and make themselves comfortable as well.

"Jawohl!" Alex replied to Contained's order to get a move on. As he forced the massive truck into gear, it fought and eventually defeated the thick ice encasing the front right tire. As the truck broke free and began speeding down the road, Alex laughed gregariously. "Hah! Dis truck is a gut von! It strong und fast. I call it das Maus, ja?"

Contained looks up from Koyotie and fixes his gaze upon Blitzkrieg for a moment. His brow would be furrowed, if he still had a face....

This guy CAN'T be for real, Contained thinks to himself. Watching the big Russian/German/whatever-the-hell-he-is was almost like watching a cartoon, a mishmash of ethnic stereotypes and bad parody. How could somebody so... goofy ever become an operative for the Russian government—important enough to send Alkonost and Bogatyr after? It has to be an act; but exactly WHO does he think he's fooling, and to what end?

Contained pushes the thought from his mind. Whoever he is, one thing's certain: his government wants him back under their control, and they're not about to let a little thing like justice or human dignity get in their way. Contained knew THAT tune by heart, even if he didn't know the words in Russian. Let him have his secrets, if it lets him sleep easier at night.

"Freaks gotta look after their own," Contained mutters to himself.

Contained turns his attention back to Koyotie. "How are YOU doing, kid?"

Koyotie manages a strained smile, blood bubbling up between her lips. "Been better. How bad is it?"

"You know, you wouldn't have this problem if you'd just tell 'em to aim for that hard head of yours," Contained replies.

That's it, Billy, Contained thinks to himself. Keep it light. Don't tell her what you REALLY think.

"It's going to be alright, Mary," he continues. "I figure it's like a jigsaw puzzle. We've still got all the original pieces; it's just going to take a little time to get them back where they belong..."

"Mary?" Koyotie asks in a whisper, looking confused. Well, as confused as her injuries would let her. "My name's not Mary."

Contained heard Koyotie's reply, but he didn't worry too much about it. She could be going into shock. She could be going into some sort of dissociative fugue state ("this traumatic experience isn't really happening to ME, it's happening to someone else"). She might even suffer from multiple-personality disorder, for all he knows (he's not a psychologist, either). Contained knows better than anybody how the "mask" can start to eat away at your identity, until you start thinking that you ARE the "suit". Besides, now's not the time for an interrogation, anyway....

And what about ME? Contained muses silently. Six more days, I get to be human again. Assuming I don't discharge the sum total of my potential energy, and vaporize half the county with me. And then what? Has Sharon been alright, all this time? Could she have moved on already? Will she even want any part of what I have planned next?

Contained shakes his head, tries to clear his mind of that train of thought. First thing's first. Keep the pressure steady. Keep Mary talking. And hope to Hell the Katzenjammer Kid up there doesn't wrap us around a lamppost.

"I've been meaning to ask you, Koyotie: why a plastic sword?"

Koyotie blinked and tried to focus on Contained's faceplate. "It's... it's not plastic. It's layers of composites around a carbon-fiber core. Doesn't show on metal detectors."

"What I mean is, why a sword with no edge? It seems like an unusual choice, given the world we live in. Some of us can't help but be lethal," Contained says, shrugging his shoulders. "Some are born psychopaths, and some have just forgotten that there's another way..."

"It's what I was issued...." comes the faint reply.

He thinks of Technicality—of Heather. She's as much a prisoner of her suit as I am to mine, Contained says to himself. She tries to be hard and unfeeling—a machine against crime—but she's still raw and aching inside. And those eyes...she's soó

Again, Contained shakes his head to derail that train of thought.

That's enough out of you, fallout-boy. He mentally grits his teeth. You're still married, and so is she—married to the only part of her husband that still remains...

Koyotie opens her eyes and tries to focus on the roof of the 'battle van.' "Where are we going?"

Alexander had been listening to the exchanges between Contained and Koyotie, and when she asked where they were going, he piped up with his boisterous, jovial accented voice. "Ho! Dat's an easy von! Ve taking hyu to de Hospital! I think Contained knows some peeple who can help you."

He paused as he turned the huge truck around a sudden corner. He was going a little fact, his combat driving could use more than a little work, among other things, but once the turn was complete, the ride was reasonably smooth again. "Don't worry! Ve almost dere. Hyu can stay avake dat long, ja?"

"No..." Koyotie coughs, "Can't go to a hospital...."

Contained's helmet snaps upward, the light from his visor flaring suddenly. "Dammit, Blitzkrieg! Weren't you paying attention? You were SUPPOSED to be taking us to meet up with FMJ, so we could get Koyotie to this doctor friend of his!" Contained's left glove deflates; and with a snap of wrist, he flings his communicator off his arm and onto the seat next to Blitzkrieg. "Get Ferris on the horn if you need directions again, but get this crate turned around NOW!"

"Boshinoy! I thought Jacket's contact vas at hospital! It is not like I know all his friends or vhere he hang out. It not as if he tells Alex these things!"

He growled a string of Russian and German curses under his breath as he threw the Incursion into gear and changed directions. "Must be nice for Capitalists to not have to vork job to be able to live vell, ja? Hyu very lucky Contained, but Alex cannot alvays be at Beer Cave. Vile you all have hyur little powwows, Alex is at regular job."

Alex looked over to the communicator on the seat next to him and he then looks over his shoulder at Contained. "Dat not very smart comrade. Alex is driving, I cannot talk on phone at the same time. Hyu want me to hit somevon?"

"Can't go to hospital," Koyotie repeated. "...alien."

Contained looks at Blitzkrieg sitting in the driver's seat, then back at his own position—kneeling on the floor of the car, one hand braced against the roof, the other holding Koyotie's guts in.

You've gotta be fucking kidding me, Contained thinks to himself.

Contained's left leg deflates partially, then begins to snake its way between the front seats of the car. When it reaches the communicator, folds in the material wrap themselves around the wrist unit, gripping it. More wrinkles pop up on the surface of the leg and begin pushing buttons, like there was a hand thrust inside the leg of the suit. The entire scene is rather unsettling.

"There," Contained sighs as he draws his leg back under his body. "I've dialed Ferris's number, and it's on speakerphone. Now will you PLEASE get us to somewhere safe, Alex?"

Outside and Above the Incursion, Heather Takahashi paralleled the vehicle's movement. Thrusters fired, lifting her battlesuit to the top of another roof. As the vehicle turned a corner, she fired a grapnel that secured itself to a sturdy television aerial. A leap, and the armored vigilante swung gracefully around to another block of St. Louis skyline. Her matte-black suit and surefooted, swift maneuvers kept her out of sight for the most part, while she constantly scanned around and behind the vehicle to see if anyone had taken an unhealthy interest in the vehicle's progress.

"Hang on Koyotie," she murmured into the communications link. "Not far now."

Alex peered from the corner of his eye first towards Contained and then to the communicator. It was already ringing, so he kept his comments to himself for the moment.

Ja! Jacket? It's Alex! How are hyu doing? Some of us not so good. Koyotie need to talk to doctor, but can't go to hospital. Contained says hyu know peoples dat can help her, ja? How you get there?"

Full Metal Jacket's voice was loud enough to be heard, even without speaker mode. "What the...?" After less than a second, he continued in a more reasonable, if no less intense tone. "How bad is she? Where are you guys? Where's Technicality?"

"Don't go blowing rivet Jacket. Koyotie is hokay. She just beat up a bit." Pause. "...a lot. But she tough gurl! She pull through, no problem! Anyvay, ve are..." Alex looked at the vehicles built in GPS (I am assuming that is one of the MANY features Damage Inc.'s vehicle has) and rattled off his location to the best of his ability (I do not know where that would be... so I am just winging that part too).

"Damage Inc. has very nice truck, ja? Has GPS, digital map, hyu name it! Hyu tell Alex vere ve need to go, und I go dere, ja?"

FMJ could be heard taking a deep breath. "Blitzkrieg? Is Technicality there? Could I speak with her?"

"Well...ja. She is here sort of. She not in truck, she is in suit flying above truck. Very hard to get phone to her. Maybe hyu call her on her suit, ja? But Koyotie needs to see hyur doctor friend soon. Contained is getting pretty upset too. Hyu have address hyu can give to Alex or should I pick hyu up somevere?

FMJ's response is curt. "Stand by. I'll have Technicality lead you to a safe place." The phone beeps, indicating the call is ended.

Technicality's line rings seconds later.

"I'm on line, Jacket." Comes the crisp reply.

Jacket voice cuts through without preamble. "Whatever happened, we can talk about later. According to Blitzkrieg, Koyotie needs medical attention, ASAP. Take them to the fourth place in Deena's list. I'll try to get a doctor, name of Tompkins, to meet you there. Copy?"

"Roger, we're en route. Jacket, be advised we are using a highly visible, er, noticeable transport at this time."

"Roger. That's why I chose the location. There's vehicle storage space there. Just have Blitzkrieg go in through the back; there's an entrance door for cars there. The keycode is 9861853202. There's a field surgery set up in the upper floor. Keep her stabilized until the doctor gets there."

"Tell your doctor friend to prepare for lots of lacerations and stab wounds.

There's a pause. "Roger. I'll brief her on the situation." Another pause. "Technicality, I'll be asking a friend, a good friend, to stick her neck out on this. Please keep that in mind."

As the directions came over the speaker phone, Blitzkrieg realized just how well-equipped the Incursion really was; the GPS heard the address and started talking to him! He almost missed the first exit, but traffic wasn't heavy at 11:15 most Thursdays in St. Louis, so after multiple lane changes, he was eastbound on the Poplar Street Bridge, heading for East St. Louis.

In minutes, the GPS helped him find the address of an abandoned repair shop in a run-down neighborhood. It looked dark and deserted. About a block away, a couple of locals stood under a broken street-lamp, minding their own you-go-to-hell business. They wouldn't make trouble.

Blitzkrieg got out, and got the office door open. He went into the garage, opened one of the bays and drove the truck inside. The vehicle bay had much of its original equipment restored to working order. And, just as FMJ had said, they found a clean, well-equipped basic surgery above the office.

As she was moved out of the back of the Incursion, Koyotie reaches out aimlessly. "ID," she whispers. "Can't lose it."

Contained climbs out of the car, cradling Koyotie in his arms. For a half-inflated balloon, he's surprisingly strong; and with limbs that can bend in ways no human can, he picks his way through the garage with almost unearthly care to avoid jostling her or bumping into anything. Scoping the building out with his X-ray vision, he finds his way directly to the surgery room.

Contained lowers Koyotie to the table, then slowly deflates his arms to ease her onto it. He starts opening drawers of equipment and, holding his palms a few inches above the instruments, begins bathing them in a sickly green light, sterilizing them—just in case.

When Blitzkrieg comes up, Contained looks up at him and says, "Alex, do me a favor? Grab Koyotie's wallet and my radio, and then ditch that car, would you? There's no sense taking a chance that the thing might be booby-trapped, or that it has a homing device planted in it. I really don't have time to scan it right now..."

Alex shrugged his massive shoulders and scratched the top of his head, his military cap resting on top of his hand as he did so. "Ja, I can do dat." He looked around and adjusted the small rectangle glasses he wore. "But hyu sure hyu be ok by hyurself? Technicality is around, sure, but when you done here, hyu need ride back to Beer-Cave, ja?"

He then looked at contained. "I take truck back to my home or to Beer-Cave. Das Maus is very gut truck, be a shame to just throw it avay." He turned to leave, one hand resting on the doorknob. "I'' be back for hyu both soon, ja?"

Contained grasps a metal instrument tray with both hands, his back turned to Blitzkrieg. There's a faint groaning sound as the tray buckles under his tightening grip. As he releases the tray, it wobbles slightly on the counter, its edges warped.

Why me? Contained silently asks the ceiling.

He turns around, slowly. "Alex, that car doesn't belong to us. And it was used in the commission of a CRIME. You take it home with you, or back to the hideout, ICoMP's going to be all over us like flies on..."

He pauses for a beat. "Look—I don't care WHAT you do with it. Use it for target practice. Sell it on eBay. Make it into an ashtray and give it to Alkonost on her birthday. Just so long as I never see it again. Ever. Verstehen Sie?"

Contained steps back to the operating table. He concentrates for a moment to inflate his glove to its fullest, then takes Koyotie's hand in his own.

"The doctor's going to be here any minute now—don't you worry..."

Alex stopped in his tracks upon hearing that. He then did his own slow turn and then took several steps towards Contained, his hard-chisled face frowning, his cold ice-grey eyes almost glowering from between the brim of his hat and his glasses. He speaks slowly and his voice a menacingly low tone. "Listen to me comrade, und listen gut. Alexander very much appreciates the efforts that hyu go to help him in many matters. Vhether hyu know it or not, I have done things to help hyu as vell. I do not mention these things because they do not matter. Alex considers you friend, ja? But that does not mean hyu can tell Alex vhat to do. Verstehen Sie mich?"

He did not wait for a reply before he turned on his heel, muttering several choice phrases in Russian under his breath.


Contained pauses for a moment. "What was that?"

"Ma-cu-wi-ta," Koyotie says again, her eyes not quite focusing on much of anything.

"Wait a minute," Contained looks Koyotie over, then up at Blitzkrieg. "Alex, get over here. I need you to feel her temperature, check her pulse—I've got no sense of touch!" Koyotie whimpers slightly, and Contained suddenly realizes how tightly he's clenching his fists in frustration. He relaxes his grip....

Alex stopped, his hand inches from the doorknob again. "Boshinoy Contained, make up hyur mind! Alex stay und help, or Alex go hide truck! Only one of Alex hyu know!" He did not say anything further as he covered the distance between the door in a few short steps, pulling off his hard leather gloves as he did so.

"I vill do vhat I can." His voice rumbles and he proceeds to do as he was asked.

Koyotie's skin is cool and a bit clammy. Her pulse is slow and weak, but steady. She's still slowly losing blood, although Contained is keeping pressure on her wounds.

After a few minutes, an old Volvo wagon pulls up in front of the repair shop, a middle-aged woman at the wheel. She looks like she's lost. She stops the car, but leaves the engine running, and stays in the driver's seat, looking around nervously. Then she notices the lights are on upstairs, and looks up towards the window.

Contained perks up when he hears the car outside.

It never rains...

"Sounds like we've got company," Contained says to Blitzkrieg. "You want to go let them in, or would you like me to?"

Alex shrugged his shoulders. "No offense comrade, but hyu not prettiest guy around... maybe scare poor doctor because of glowy bits. I go get them." At that he turns on his heel and makes his way towards the door. He stops once he gets there and looks over his shoulder at Contained for a moment, an nonverbal check to see of the orange-suited man would change his mind again. When there was nothing from him, Alex pulled the door open and stepped out.

It would not be very long before the massive man peeked his head out one of the doors that was near where the doctor had parked and looked both ways. Satisfied that nobody else was around he stepped out of the building and made his way casually to where the car was parked.

A gloved hand lightly knocks on the driver's side window to get the woman's attention. " 'Ello." He began with his thick eastern-european accent. "Hyu are friend of Jacket's ja? He send hyu here, ja?"

She looked Blitzkrieg up and down skeptically. "Dr. Francine Tompkins, MD. Full Metal Jacket asked me to look at a patient, at this address."

"Ahh! Sehr Gut! Hyu vait here, I open doors so hyu can park car inside, ja?" He then left the woman almost as quickly as he had approached her. A moment or two later, one of the bay doors would open, granting just enough clearance so the woman could move her car into the relative safety of the building.

Dr. Tompkins pulled inside, shut the car off, and got out. "Look, I don't know who you are, but Full Metal Jacket knows where I am, and he's got connections. If anything happens to me, I assure you, all kinds of the wrong people will find out, do you understand? Now, let's have a look at our patient."

Alex blinked a couple of times at the woman's rather aggressive behavior. Who knows what she was expecting, but it most likely would not be a deep, gregarious laugh. "Ho! Dat's a gut von doctor! Jacket und I are friends too! Vhy hyu think I let hyu in, ja? Come! follow me, I take hyu to hurt friend, ja?"

He turned then to guide her out of the bay and eventually to the makeshift medical facility where Koyotie and Contained were at. On the way, the Tompkins would most likely notice that her guide could use some medical attention himself.

"Yes, and then I'll have a look at your arm." Tompkins arrived upstairs and the first thing she saw was Contained. "What the..." Her exclamation cut short when she noticed Koyotie lying on the table behind him. She rushed to the table and her medical training took over immediately. "Okay, I need to know exactly what happened. She's bleeding internally. Looks like everything's still here, though. Now, besides you two, is there anyone who can assist while I operate?"

Just then, the door opened and the form of a battlesuit stood against the night sky. "I think I can help." The words were buzzed as always through the helmet's speaker grille.

Then, the helmet tilted to the left curiously. "Got some extra scrubs?"

"Yeah, put these on." Tompkins unceremoniously tossed a bundle towards Technicality. "And try to clean yourself up."

As time went on, the source of Dr. Tompkins' ire became apparent. She explained a few things while she worked. "It was like this last year, too. Some of my former colleagues don't even bother making plans on Vengeance Night. There's something big going on over in U. City, makes this look like a picnic, and I don't even know who's involved, aside from our 'mutual friend'. It's not ICoMP, and it's not Second Syndicate. Whoever they are, someone's dropping them like ducks in a shooting gallery. I hate Vengeance Night."

Seeing the looks on everyone's faces, she shook her head and went on. "No, I'm sure Full Metal Jacket's okay. He's been around a long time, and he knows what he's doing."

Alex kept his distance from the operation, not because of the sight of blood or a wounded Koyotie, but rather his hands were far too large for delicate work. He listened to the conversation and he looked over to Tompkins. His voice was low, rather serious and lacking the usual boisterous humor. "Several people vere hurt tonight. Dey hurt, but nothing permanent... they vill all live. I know Jacket is hokay because he tell us how to get here. The gut news is that we stopped Death Vengeance und he vill be put back behind bars vere he belong."

Hours have passed. It's nearly dawn now; Dr. Tompkins has done all she can for Koyotie, and everyone at the safehouse is bloodied and exhausted. FMJ has taken Dr. Tompkins out for coffee, and to try to offer some explanations for everything she's witnessed during the last several hours. Koyotie sleeps for now, in guarded but stable condition. Blitzkrieg is wondering if he can find a place to crash for a couple hours. As he shuffles out the doorway, Contained stops him.



"Koyotie... she wouldn't even have had THIS chance if you hadn't gotten us here so quickly. I--"


"Speciba, my friend."

Contained looks back toward the vehicle bay. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take a look at that Death Machine you commandeered for us—make sure Mayhem Inc. didn't sabotage it somehow. If D'Arc Tangent comes around, would you ask her to come find me? We'll disconnect the main battery and have her give it the once over—her just being here ought to burn out any transmitters or anything else I might have missed..."

Alex blinked in response to the apology and offered a smile. Not one of his boisterous, gregarious smiles but something far more meaningful. "No trouble comrade. No trouble at all. Dats vhat friends are for after all. Ve help each other out, ja?"

"Now, if there is nothing else, I need to get some sleep. I do have night-job tonight after all. Have a gut day Contained."

Time passes. The first golden rays of sunlight begin to peek through the windows of the garage, and Contained pops his head up through the ring mount on the roof of the Incursion. The vehicle looks clean—no antitheft devices, no homing beacons—but he'll still feel better once D'arc Tangent makes a pass over it with her power.

He rests his elbows on the roof of the car, and absently looks over the things he picked up in the cab. The first is his wrist-comm—Contained's glove goes flat, then he slides it back into position on his wrist. The other is Koyotie's wallet, dropped on the floor during all the commotion getting here. He turns it over and over with his gloved hands, and the glow from his visor intensifies slightly. Reading documents was a pain—the X-ray portion of the spectrum is so dominant in Contained's field of vision, he can only see visible light with intense concentration—and he didn't want to work that hard right now. He tucks it in one of the pouches on his belt. I'll give it back to Mary when she wakes up, he thinks to himself.

Contained now looks up, and his gaze slowly sweeps across the building. Fixtures and furniture within the garage look ghostly and translucent. He spots Blitzkrieg snoring in a battered easy chair, an enormous wraith with its skeletal feet propped on a table. He looks for the familiar shape of Technicality—a silhouette of absolute black, impenetrable even to his X-ray vision....

The suit is there, motionless and empty. Heather is just a pair of eyes above a surgical mask as she strips off her gloves. She looks tired, but triumphant. She appears a lot more... relaxed is the word Contained would use. As though everything were as it should be. Her eyes remained intense and dark, but no longer quite so... haunted.

Dr. Francine Tompkins walked over to Heather and breathes a sigh of exhaustion. "You did good. I'm getting too old to operate solo. Thank you." She looked back towards Koyotie, who was now fast asleep. "Your friend there is... resilient. She's got a few other scars--they've healed very well, but one or two of them look almost as bad as this. Can you tell me anything about her recuperative powers? Is she a mutant, or just a fast healer? Without her medical history, I'm sort of flying blind here."

With footsteps light as smoke, Contained steps in to the surgery room. "Dr. Tompkins," Contained nods in greeting, "Technicality. I'm glad I found you here. I was hoping I'd have a chance to speak with you—with BOTH of you, actually..."

Contained steps over to the table where Koyotie is resting. He looks down at her, carefully brushing a few stray hairs away from her face, then looks back up at Tompkins. "How is our patient?"

"About as well as could be expected. She'll recover, provided there aren't any complications. I'm told she's a fast healer, but I'm not sure how fast, exactly." Tompkins could only shrug. "I've done just about everything I can--the rest is up to her. And maybe you, if she'll listen. Tell her when she wakes up: Take it easy until she's healed up. Doctor's orders. And no more knives."

Contained nods solemnly. "Doctor, I know we've already asked a lot of you tonight; and you'd probably like nothing better than to just go home right now. But I was wondering if you would consider helping us... helping me with another medical procedure? Let me explain..."

Contained begins to talk to Dr. Tompkins at length—about the nature of his "condition", about the deal offered by the Syndicate, and about the childhood friend who now holds the only remaining samples of William Archer's DNA.

"...but as loathe as I am to make deals with criminals, or to traffick in controlled substances, every day I remain in this condition I'm a threat to everyone around me—maybe even to the entire city. The Syndicate says they only need a few cells to get a complete copy of my genetic code; but I'd feel more at ease if those cells were extracted by a professional. I'm afraid I can't offer much by way of payment; but anything I have, any service I can render is yours for the asking, gladly. You'd be giving me my life back."

"So," Contained says expectantly, "will you help me?"

Dr. Tompkins took in all this information with a resigned look on her face. Crazy as it was, she couldn't really think of a reason to talk herself out of it.

"Look, Contained. I don't really need to know all the particulars about your deal with the Syndicate--it's better if I don't. This is a simple, elective procedure I'd be performing on your friend, and you're telling me he's basically a normal human. I can manage that. The key word here is 'elective.' He'll need to sign some consent forms before I even walk into the same room with him. See if you can have him here Monday night, and I'll arrange to perform a kidney biopsy."

"Monday night," Contained nods. "That settles that part. Now I just have to get him here. And that's where I need your help," Contained says, turning to Technicality.

"Sam's a stand-up guy," he continues, "and I know he'd do for me, just like I did for him. But first, I have to convince him that I'm really Bill Archer, and that starts with convincing him not to run screaming out the door as soon as he sees me. I need someone else here with me, Technicality. Someone... human. Someone who exudes trustworthiness. Someone to show him I'm nothing to be afraid of. Someone," he pauses for a moment, "like your attorney friend, Ms. Takahashi."

"Do you think you could prevail upon her to help broker the deal?"

Technicality's response was muffled not by her helmet, but by the surgical mask tied just below her eyes. "I'll see what I can do." The woman's response was clipped and precise. Her eyes narrowed over the mask at Contained. "I think she'll be available for consultation."

Contained's gaze shifts to Dr. Tompkins for a moment, then back to Technicality. Did I say something wrong? he wonders. Heather seemed a bit...curt. Is she worried about her identity being exposed? I'll ask Sam to meet with us early; that way, Heather can make the introductions and then split before Tompkins arrives, so the good doctor can't make any connection between her and the woman wearing the Technicality armor....

So many variables, he thinks, so much that's still beyond my control. Before his transformation, Archer was self-assured and confident to the point of cockiness—the very building blocks of the universe were going to be his to command, back when he was a scientist. The last six months have been a devastating blow to his ego; but he's come to value the friendships he's made far more than he ever did before, and is learning to trust and rely on his fellow man.

That's right, you bastards. He thinks of Boleman and Stern, and his escape from the lab. I'm still a MAN. No matter what you do to me, whatever else you strip me of, you can NEVER take that from me.

"Thank you, Technicality," Contained replies. "Now let's see if we can get our colleague safely tucked into her own bed." He tries once, twice to pick up one of the cards that fell from Koyotie's wallet. On the third time he succeeds, and holds it close to the lamp to get as much visible light shining on it as possible....

It is an identification card for one Merriya Highwolf, Inspector, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, F Division - Saskatchewan.

What the hell? Contained thinks to himself.

"Technicality, come take a look at this," Contained says, holding the card out to her.

"You suppose it's authentic?" he asks, once Technicality has a chance to examine the card. "It doesn't make any sense—if she's a Canadian police officer, what's she doing here, with us? Why wouldn't she be working with ICoMP? Unless..." Contained glances around the room, "...but none of us are Canadian; she wouldn't have jurisdiction to pursue any of us! And if she's gone rogue, why was she so concerned about losing it?"

Contained turns to face the remains of Koyotie's costume, piled on a chair in the corner. His gaze bathes the garments with x-rays, scanning them, searching for signs of tracking devices, microphones, anything....

Heather reaches out to take the card and study it. "It's real." She pronounces a few moments later. "I'd need my suit on to run it against the ICOMP Database, but from what I can see here...she's on the level." One eyebrow rose as she turned the ID back over to Contained. "The question now becomes, what's she doing down here? A little out of her jurisdiction, isn't it?"

"Maybe." Contained's gaze shifts from Koyotie's costume to the wall, then through it—making sure the building wasn't surrounded by a SWAT team or ICoMP agents.

"Perhaps we should keep this on the Q.T. for now, Technicality—just until we can get a better handle on this. Confronting people directly when something seems fishy..." Contained pauses for a moment, looking down at his hands, "...generally hasn't worked well for me. I don't want to ask Koyotie why she's here until I know why. Let me do a little digging, see if maybe someone on the team might have an outstanding warrant in Canada or is maybe on the lam with a different identity."

"And while I'm thinking about it," Contained continues, "can you keep an ear to the ground for what happens during Mayhem, Inc.'s arraignment? If they make bail, I'd like to know who posted it, and who they hire as their lawyer, and what connections that lawyer might have. Something just isn't sitting right with me, the way Death Vengeance staged that whole scenario last night..."

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