Chronicles of a Caped Crusader: Long Shadows: Part Four
Chloe's return to consciousness was accompanied by a smashing headache that made her regret the fact that she had woken up. She groaned and dug her fists into her eyes, a move which she instantly regretted as the contact with her head only made the pain worse.
“Don't sit up,” someone told her; she belatedly realized it was Dr. Flexo.
“Have I mentioned that I truly hate everyone Nefarious trained with a hate that is probably improper for a Defender?” Chloe muttered through clenched teeth.
“Drink this,” Dr. Flexo said, and Chloe felt a straw against her lips.
She took careful sips so as not to choke since she was still lying on her back. She recognized the taste as a strong healing potion. Immediately, the pain in her head began to lessen. Dr. Flexo allowed her to sit up, and she did, slowly, and then finished off the potion. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was in the infirmary on level B-3. The doors to the room opened and Judge Hog stepped in.
“How's she doing?” he asked.
“Well, you can tell Lightning I'm apparently not getting out of paying him the money I owe him from our most recent bet,” Chloe said, trying lighten the situation with humor.
Judge Hog smiled at that.
“She's going to be just fine,” Dr. Flexo said to Judge Hog. He then turned his attention to Chloe. “I'm discharging you, but you're to go straight home and spend the rest of the day resting.”
“Aye, aye, Doc,” Chloe said, hopping off the bed, and then wishing she had done it a little more slowly as her head twinged with pain.
Chloe followed Judge Hog out and to the elevator. She got in with him and he pressed the button for the ground level.
“So, did I delay her enough for anyone to arrive to apprehend her?
“No, I'm afraid not. I arrived minutes after she left,” Judge Hog said.
“Did you guys manage to track her movements?” she asked.
Chloe cringed. “Did she do that disappearing with no trace thing again?”
“If she had left a trail, I didn't have time to catch it. You were hurt; attending to an injured Defender takes priority in that situation,” Judge Hog explained.
“Oh, borovan. I'm kicking myself for not changing into my suit. We never have me sit at the console as Morphica, but with her on the loose, I should have been in costume. I might not have been able to take her if I had been. I wouldn't have been incapacitated so quickly if I'd had the armor the suit affords me,” Chloe ranted.
“I've seen the footage already; you put up an amazing fight for being in civilian dress against a dark mage of her caliber. I was surprised to see you get up again after you hit the floor, let alone keep attacking,” Judge Hog told her.
“Eh, you know me. I'm hotheaded and stubborn and not willing to give anyone the satisfaction no matter how much grief it puts me through. It's not always a good quality, but I make it work,” Chloe said, again trying to laugh off the injuries she had taken. “Do we know why she was after Nefarious' headcasing?”
Judge Hog drew in a sharp breath as he shook his head. “Not as of yet. We're looking into that angle. Hopefully it will lead us straight to her.”
The elevator had reached the ground level and they walked outside, through the broken entrance. The glass, dark magic, and laser burns had already been cleaned up, though the doors were still hanging off their hinges. Loraine was standing outside the HQ, wearing sun hat and over-sized sunglasses. It was perfectly appropriate attire for the weather, but looked strange on Loraine.
“Why are you dressed like that?” Chloe asked, wondering if her head injury was making her miss something obvious, like the fact that it had been wear an over-sized hat to work day.
“I had to come outside to assess the damage to send a report to our repairmen. We've got a crowd of reporters behind police barricades. You know I don't like pictures with my face to make their way into the public eye. I may be close to twenty years older than I was when I 'died', but there are those out there who may yet recognize me, and that would lead to unfortunate complications,” Loraine explained.
“Yes, no duh. I'm quick today,” Chloe said, giving her forehead a playful slap, which she instantly regretted. “Ow, yeah, head injuries, massive giggles.”
“Maybe we should get someone to walk to walk her home?” Loraine suggested. “I think Lightning will be returning in the next five minutes.”
“I'll be--” Chloe started, but was interrupted by an outcry from the crowd and Chia Police.
A reporter had jumped the barricade and the Chia Police were moving to intercept her.
“Let her come,” Judge Hog shouted to them. “Looks like we've found our escort.”
“I'm fine, Kristy,” Chloe shouted, ignoring the pain in her head that flared when she shouted. Her mother's pace didn't slacken, she closing the distance at a speed that would have even impressed Lightning Lenny.
“She's lying,” Loraine called. “She's had a head injury and needs you to lock her in her room and make her take a nap.”
Kristy reached Chloe, looking paler than usual. Her questions came out in panicked gasps. “Are you okay, honey? Your face is bruised. I was on Kiko Island. My boss sent a messenger to get me; I would have been here a while ago otherwise. What happened? Are you okay?”
“We cannot go into the details at this time as it is an ongoing investigation. However, we can say Chloe was true hero and defended the building against the intruder, during which she suffered the injury. She's already been treated by our doctor who will continue to monitor her condition, but he is confident all she needs is a few hours of rest. You can take her home and coddle her,” Judge Hog explained, giving Chloe a sarcastic smile as he finished.
“I will. I'll have to find a way to get Yanli out of the house, though,” Kristy said, wrapping an arm around Chloe's shoulders. “Come on, honey.”***
Chloe laid on her bed, petting her warf, which Kristy had deposited on her chest and ordered to sleep as a means of ensuring that Chloe wouldn't attempt to get up. True to orders, May had dropped off to sleep the moment she had been told to, and Chloe had spent the last hour laying under her petpet cursing her mother's ability to occasionally come up with a solid idea.
Her door opened and she glanced up, surprised to see Princess standing there with a book tucked under her arm and a tea tray with all the proper accessories on it.
“I found an old Qasalan recipe for a headache reducing tea that works wonders. I've used it numerous times myself, so I know it truly works. I brought a straw so you don't have to sit up. I also brought a book to read to you, a novel,” she said the word with a level of disdain that Chloe couldn't help but chuckle at.
“You've no idea how much it means to me that you would leave your impenetrable fortress of facts to read me fiction, Princess,” Chloe teased with a chuckle.
“Leave the snark to Elise,” Princess said with an arch smile, placing the glass of tea within Chloe's reach and sitting down in a chair to read.
“Sorry, Princess, but I do mean it,” she told her sister.
The Uni smiled at her and opened the book. “By the by, before we begin, how did you get injured? You spend every spare minute training. Shouldn't you have known you were outmatched and not gone in alone?”
“I was alone; it was a busy day. Judge Hog wasn't far away and hurrying back. I was just supposed to be delaying the perp; she was a little faster than I was expecting and got in a headshot,” Chloe lied.
“What did she want?” Princess asked.
“Memorabilia from the display,” Chloe said, seeing no reason to lie or even one that would be convincing. “No idea why. She's not going to be able to pawn it off, because without revealing the history behind it, it'll look completely worthless, and if she tells what it is, everyone will know it is stolen and call the DoN instead of buying it. We're assuming she's mentally disturbed or it was to prove she was tough.”
“I wouldn't be so quick to think she's being flippant about this theft, Chloe,” Princess said, frowning.
“Okay, tell me why,” Chloe said. “I'd appreciate a new angle on it, and I'll run it by my bosses if it seems like something credible to look into.”
“Items have power, if you know how to use it. The owners of an item imprint on them, particularly if it was a significant item to them, or something they wore often. It is something you see many cases of in the desert history and lore particularly. You can often extract power from them, power that once belonged to the owner. You might want to be concerned about what exactly was stolen. The news reports indicate that the person who broke into the building used dark magic, meaning she is a mage and might have knowledge of this. Whatever she took may have been for some darker purpose,” Princess explained, smoothing a lock of her immaculate hair back into place.
“That's not good,” Chloe said slowly, realizing she was right.
To be continued…