Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Long Shadows: Part Two
Chloe and Loraine rode the elevator down one floor and got out. Orig was waiting in front of the doors, leaning against the opposite wall. Chloe had gotten pretty good at reading everyone, and she could tell that he was ill at ease, despite his casual pose.
“What's up, Orig?” Chloe asked stepping out.
“Old wounds,” he said pushing off the wall and standing upright. “Time doesn't heal all things.”
“Is something wrong with wherever Lady is being held?” Chloe asked, wondering if this was a meeting to deal with potential future scenarios.
“No, the facility is still secure; Lady and all her ilk are safely contained. No need to worry on that score. She's simply a relic of another age. The time of Nefarious was something that was supposed to be over and done with a decade ago. It's not easy to have all of this dredged up again. Pulling Lady into our lives again makes this more... real if you will. It associates it more with Nefarious than Veronica and Iniquitous previously did,” Orig explained.
“Orig, if you have a better way, I'd love to hear it,” Loraine said, sounding tired. “I'd love a better way.”
“I don't have a better way, Loraine, you know that,” Orig replied. “I just don't like the fact that some shadows of a time that was supposed to be over are long enough to reach us even here and now. I know you were there and understand what she is, but she was a true monster. This seems like a mistake.”
“You and Aisheena feel the same, and I am hardly entirely comfortable with what we are planning, but we're getting to the point where we need to take some risk to prevent larger losses. And, don't you dare bring up my background on this. I know we had a disregard for casualties among Sloth's corps, but I'm taking into account that and the fact that she will be monitored at all times after we set our plans in motion. Also, we should save this discussion for after we've actually announced the plan to everyone. I think poor Chloe is standing behind feeling completely confused.”
“Don't mind me. You talk enough and eventually I'll figure out what you're on about,” Chloe replied good-naturedly.
“Good point,” Orig said, his comment directed at Loraine and not Chloe.
Chloe shrugged with good humor; she had tried. They went into the meeting room and took seats around the table that was slowly filling up with the other Defenders. Lightning Lenny zipped in and took a seat next to her.
“Usual bets?” he asked.
“How do we bet on something like this?” Chloe asked.
“I don't know. I'm not actually sure what is going on either. I'm also a post-Nefarious era Defender, so I don't actually know why Lady is making an appearance again now,” Lightning admitted.
“Well, then, I'm going to place my bets on 'this is gonna be rather unpleasant',” Chloe said.
“I see your 'rather unpleasant' and raise you 'We're all going to be bashing our heads on the wall in frustration before this is over',” Lightning replied.
Chloe held out her hand and he shook it. Chloe caught the eye roll Orig gave them and smirked over at him. A minute later, Judge Hog and the final missing Defenders entered and took their place at the table. Judge Hog remained standing, only waiting until everyone else was seated before beginning the meeting.
“I'll cut right to the chase. We're considering releasing the Painted Lady in hopes she'll lead us to Iniquitous.”
The room erupted into a cacophony of varying opinions all being stated at the same time. Judge Hog raised his hands in a gesture for quiet and the noise subsided.
“We realize this is a complicated issue, which is why we're having this council in the first place. However, we will only be able to come to an agreement about the manner if we do this in a civil and organized manner. First, we should allow Loraine to outline the proposed plan. Loraine, if you will?”
Loraine rose from her seat, calm as always. “I'm sure all of you who were not a part of this organization at the time of the Painted Lady's brief reign of terror have read your dossier so you know who we are discussing. Out of all the disciples, Lady still remains the most devoted to her persona and ideals of anarchy instilled in her by Captain Nefarious. As such, we believe that if released she would attempt to carry out her previous mission of destruction, particularly against the Defenders. However, the world is a vastly different place from what she knew previously, and she no longer has her master to return to. We believe this might drive her to the next best thing, Iniquitous. She will believe that her release is secured under her own power, and she will be monitored around the clock so that we may take her back into custody the moment she deviates from our hoped outcome or she leads us to Iniquitous.”
There was low murmuring, but it was quiet and less negative than the original outburst had been. Judge Hog rose to speak again.
“Granted, no one likes this plan. No one who actually witnessed Lady in action ever wants to see her free or take a gamble on her, but out of all of the disciples, she seems the most likely to seek a partnership of some kind. The question of the hour is 'do we risk it'? If no one can raise an objection strong enough to deter us, or propose a better plan, we must move forward with this course of action, so if you strongly object, now is your chance to make that objection heard.”
Chloe glanced at Orig, but he was silent. He had already admitted he didn't have a better solution. No one spoke up, so Judge Hog called it.
“Well, then. Loraine, please put your plan into action then,” Judge Hog said, sitting down.
“Very good,” Loraine replied. “Aisheena, Chloe, you'll be coming with me to supervise the release of Lady. Blackwing, Masked Intruder, you've already received your orders; get to your positions. Lightning, you have first watch. The control room on the bottom floor has been re-purposed to track Lady's movements. Everyone else will continue operations as normal. Let's move.”
“Council adjourned,” Judge Hog said, dismissing everyone.
“Suit up,” Loraine told Chloe as she passed her.
Chloe walked out into the hall next to Lightning. She gave him a wry grin. “I think you already win the bet.”
“Give it time,” Lightning replied. “I'm sure there will be time to regret it far more than this.”**
Chloe met Loraine and Aisheena in the docking bay and they got into Captain K's spaceship.
“You two strap in back here. Only I'm allowed up in the cockpit right now. There is a little matter of secrecy of location, even among the Defenders. The less you know, the better for you,” Loraine explained.
They two nodded and buckled in. Loraine shut the door leading into the cockpit and a minute later they heard the whine of the engines.
“This is weird,” Aisheena commented.
“What is?” Chloe asked.
“The artificial gravity and motion dampeners make this ship feel like it isn't moving, and without a window, you can't see that it is,” Aisheena explained. “It feels like we're sitting here waiting to move when we're probably a good distance from the HQ already.”
“It's kinda weird, I guess,” Chloe said with a shrug.
They made the rest of the ride in silence. When they docked at the prison, they waited until Loraine emerged from the cockpit before they got up. They followed her lead as she opened the hatch and stepped out into the prison. A Kougra was waiting for them outside the ship. He had paperwork which he handed to Loraine to deal with.
“For the record, I am still seriously opposed to this plan, ma'am. I've had to watch over Lady for the last decade and the one thing I've learned is the sorceress always jumps the opposite direction her actions imply she will. I agree that she's the only one who might partner with the remaining disciple, but she also might do something so completely unexpected that you won't be able to stop her,” the Kougra said as he led them along the narrow windowless corridors.
“We'll be monitoring her at all times with agents nearby to pick her up should she deviate from our hoped for outcome. Our anti-magic protocols are much better than they were when we originally captured her,” Loraine said, finishing signing the transfer. “Is everything in order for a transfer this minute?”
“Yes. I'll leave you in the control room to oversee the procedure. She'll be boxed and placed on your ship, after which time, she is officially your problem until you return her to us.”
“Very good,” Loraine said as they entered the control room.
Chloe spent the next hour watching the extensive procedures that went into safely moving a dangerous prisoner like the Painted Lady. She was cuffed with magic blocking handcuffs, ones timed to break exactly three hours from when they were activated, blindfolded with two different kinds of blindfolds, and walked to a secure box that deprived the occupant of all outside stimuli. Lady wouldn't even know she was moving after she was closed in. Once she was placed in the box, they moved it on-board the ship they had arrived in.
That done, the three defenders returned to the ship to move on with the next phase of the plan.
To be continued…