By the time Kai had driven them back to the headquarters, it was closer to one in the morning than it was to midnight. His black BMW quickly drove through, only halted by security checks and speed bumps along the way. For people being detained there was a side entrance which was more heavily guarded and better fortified, almost separate from the rest of the building. Kai parked up and got out of the car, with Shaun in tow.
“Bring in the goons, I’ll bring in Burnham.”
Shaun nodded, and they begun to retrieve their detainees. Whilst Shaun was hoisting the two men over his shoulders as he’d carried them previously, Kai was busy grabbing Michael by the scruff of his collar, and hauling him up. He was more resistant than anticipated, so Kai forced him out of the car and shoved him forward.
With Michael at the front and Kai holding him by the scruff of his collar from behind, Shaun followed as they went through even more security checks. When they finally entered the building, they walked over to the front desk, separated from the rest of the room by thick glass, with a small panel that could be slid up. The guard on desk duty, a young man with ginger hair, sat behind a computer. Behind him was the door to get inside, a pair of filing cabinets either side of that door and a wooden box hung on the wall to the side. He nodded and typed on his computer as he spoke.
“Morning. Seeing you out of armour, now that’s new.”
“Mornin’. What can I say? I like to surprise people.” Kai smiled. “I’ve got three new people to check into the NFU hotel.”
“Busy night.” He typed some more, going between watching the monitor and Kai. “So, three individual. Names?”
“Michael Burnham, no idea who the crap these two are.” Kai said, pointing a thumb towards Shaun and the two men over his shoulders.
“Any special procedures requires for their confinement? Regular cell, solitary, any emotional dampeners required?”
Kai took a look at Michael and shook his head. “None more than usual.”
“Right. Detainment period?”
“Until further notice.” Kai said, taking a glance at Michael. Whilst he was wearing a scowl as he had been since the start of his incarceration, he was busy looking around, studying the building around him.
“I can’t put that down.” The guard said, taking a look at Michael himself. “I need a figure.”
Kai took another look at Michael, more analytical. Sizing him up with his eyes. “A week, but be ready for extension on that period.”
The guard nodded, and his keyboard clattered with keystrokes. “Mmhmm. Dietary requirements?”
Attention was drawn to Michael, who was still busy looking around, as if ignoring the question. When Kai nudged him with his shoulder, he spoke almost instantly. “Nothin’.”
“Any special requirements?” The guard asked after typing a single letter.
“Nah.” Michael said, staring the guard down. His eyes were averted to his screen and paid no attention to the gaze.
“Good. And the other two? Are they unconscious?”
Shaun took a single step forward, the men hanging lifelessly over his shoulders. “Yeah. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it.” The guard responded. “We’ll ask for their details in the morning. Do they need any medical attention?”
Shaun turned to Kai, who gave him a small nod. Shaun nodded back to him, then turned to the guard. “Maybe they should be looked over. They weren’t hit too hard, but you never know.”
“We’ll get a medical team to check them in the morning. That about wraps it up. Cells two A, B, and C are available.” The guard stood up and walked over to the wooden box and pushed it open, showing rows of cell keys. He scanned along them with his finger, then took the three for the cells in question and handed them over
Kai nodded, then gave Michael a shove, to which he grunted in response. “Thanks. Back in two.”
Kai led them down the corridors, leading Shaun, Michael and his two men from the nicer front portion of the building, down to the holding cells. It looked far more plain, less decorative, as rows of steel doors with pull down hatches at eye level lined down the walls. The doors had a small metal panel near the keyhole, and underneath the hatch which you opened to talk was a second which you could push in, so food could be put inside. Each one was labelled with a number and a letter, and errant snoring was heard inside as they went past 1-J and turned a corner.
The first cells they approached were all labelled with a two, and the hatches were open to show that they were currently vacant and unlocked. He pulled the door open by the thick handle and pushed Michael inside, keeping his back faced to him. The room was basic, bare of any frills or decorations. The bed was nothing but a mattress on a block of wood on the other side of the room, with a pillow against the back wall so your feet would be facing the entrance. To the left of it was a stainless steel toilet basin at the floor, and a blocky metal sink between that and the bed.
Kai reached into his pocket with his now free hand and dug out the keys for his handcuffs.
“It’s about as luxurious as it’s gonna get for you.”
He watched Michael flex his hands as the cuffs were removed, rubbing at the thick indentations that they left. He was looking around the cell, and Kai mused for a moment.
“Didn’t think the cuffs were that tight on you.”
“I’ll live, just ’bout.” Michael said, walking over to the bed and sitting down on the edge. He sat with his hands on his knees, returning his stare to Kai.
Kai took the key to the cell and passed it between his hands, before stepping outside and locking the door. He walked to the next cell and opened the door for Shaun, who walked inside and put one of the men on the bed, sprawled over mattress in an comatose stupor. He did the same for the other, and once Kai had locked both of the doors he began to walk back to the entrance.
“That’s some good work right there.” Kai said, dusting his hands together.
“It feels like it was too easy.” Shaun said, as they got out of earshot of the cells where Michael and his men were being held. “This guy’s a big thing, right? Why’d he get caught so easily”
“Yup. He is, and it’s way too easy. He’s not an idiot, even if he wants us to think he is. If it was just him being stupid, I’ll be surprised.”
They walked past the front door, and Kai waved back to the guard, who waved as well.
“Tomorrow, we’ll start questioning him.” Kai continued. “Find out why it was too easy, what he’s doing with what was stolen, see if he’s linked to the Ten Granders and Doppler’s crew. My money’s on him being involved with all of them.”
“It’d be a bit anti-climatic if it wasn’t.” Shaun said, shrugging.
“Couldn’t care less, as long as we’ve got the right people in prison. You in tomorrow?”
Shaun shook his head, as they walked over to the security checks once again and were let through quickly. “Day off.”
“Enjoy it. I’ll let them know you need a lift back.”
Shaun nodded. “I’ll head to the staff room. See you later.”
Kai nodded, as Shaun started to walk back around to the front entrance of the headquarters, then waited until Shaun had walked around a corner before he scratched his chin.
“That kid’s going places. I’d better go and get some sleep. Good thing I’ve got a late start tomorrow.”
He took his phone out and made a quick call, letting the drivers know that Shaun required a lift back to his house, and slid the phone back into his pocket. He took his car keys out and unlocked it from a distance, and put his finger through the metal ring so he was swinging them around as he walked over.
Kai got in, sat in the driver’s seat and started the engine, then made sure his windows were fully down before turning the radio on and cranking it up, then pulled out and drove away from the headquaters.
A fully armoured Grandmaster walked through the front entrance of the NFU headquarters. The sun was starting to climb through the sky, and a clear shade of dark blue was slowly becoming visible through the smother of grey clouds. It felt like hardly any time had passed; he had more of a nap than a full sleep, running on four hours of rest two mugs of coffee and a bagel. Three mugs of coffee, if you count the third one he procured from a vending machine inside the building.
He walked into the cafeteria with the white paper cup in hand and set it down on the table. As he often was, he was meticulous and careful when it came to disarming himself of his own helmet. He let it rest on the table, with the glowing blue eyes facing him as they begun to fade and power down. He brought the cup to his lips, blew on it once and took a single sip before putting it back down with a grumble.
“One day, they’ll use some damn coffee instead of dirt in that coffee machine.”
“It’s instant coffee. You can’t expect more, Grandmaster.”
Impetus spoke softly as he walked around the table and took the seat opposite from Grandmaster. Whilst he normally wore quite casual clothes around the headquarters, he was in full body armour today. He never wore a helmet, but half of his face was normally covered by a light grey mask, from the bridge of his nose that covered his mouth and all of his face from the sockets downwards. The rest of his armour, whilst offering light protection, didn’t shield him much from physical damage. The material underneath the protective pads on his shoulders, forearms, biceps, chest and thighs were a pale grey like his mask, but the raised points of armour themselves were a pale, unusual orange.
The only visible skin on him right now was his face, and even that was bare, his mask being dumped on the table once he sat.
“Guess I can’t expect better than the crap in this cup. Impetus, it’s been a while.”
“It has, Grandmaster.” He offered him a smile. “Not my own doing, I assure you.”
“It’s just how work works, isn’t it?” Grandmaster raised his hand, resting it on his helmet. “Nice to see you in your actual uniform for a change. Must be what, the first time in half a year since you’ve worn something that ain’t gym gear.”
Impetus leaned back on his chair. “I can’t say I’ve seen you out of your armour. It must smell horribly, considering you aren’t one to take it off. A second skin to you, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, well. Some of us need it more than others.” Grandmaster shrugged. “We didn’t win the Farside lottery, us ‘normies’. Not all of us are barrier makers, or that ‘second wave’ crap you tend to spout out to make yourself feel important.”
“It’s true.” Impetus said. “You may think I’m arrogant to say it-”
“-yup.” Grandmaster interrupted. “I definitely do-”
Impetus countered his interrupt with his own. “-but I don’t think you’d sound half as bitter if it did not hold to be true-”
Grandmaster quickly sliced off the end of his sentence, to add his own. “-and whilst you may think it’s true, if the ‘first wave’ does their job, it makes you a little bit redundant, so I figure you’re trying to remind yourself as much as other people. So you feel like you’re just being held in reserves, instead of sitting on your thumbs all day-”
“-and when that time comes, you’ll be the first to thank me, and the boy.”
Their pause was uneasy. It was broken when they both formed a wide grin on their face.
“You know, we just pick off from where we left off. Glad you’ve still got some sense of humour, you arsehole.” Grandmaster chuckled lowly. “Been on patrol last night?”
“Yes. Predictable, and boring. Calm before the storm.”
“Guess you need to make an appearance once in a while. Those autographs don’t sign themselves.” Grandmaster sniffed the air, glancing down to his coffee. “The boy, you mean Verus.”
“I do.” Impetus says, nodding.
“The name’s a bit different, not sure what I think about it just yet.” Grandmaster said, strumming his fingers on his helmet. “What do you make of it?”
“Exceptional people need exceptional names. I like it.”
“Sure, you would love it, Impetus. Latin named guy loves the boy named after a Roman gladiator. For a Greek, you love a lot about Italy.”
Impetus nodded, matter of factly. “It’s a beautiful country. You should go sometime. I’m sure, in ancient times, you’d have been a master of the Colosseum.”
“No doubt. Makes me feel like my powers are a few centuries old.”
“They’re not far off your actual age, then.” Impetus raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, you’re gettin’ better. That one was almost an insult this time.” Grandmaster said. “It’s taken you all this time and you’ve worked up to that one. All that practice, for that.”
“I’d like to think, I’m more useful in other areas.”
“Mmm.” Grandmaster grumbled, taking a glance at his cup again. “Sure. My powers are telling me how to best shove this paper cup down your throat to choke you. They tend to flare up when you run your mouth like that.”
“How is that going, anyway?” Impetus asked, turning the conversation more serious.
“Not bad. I’m coping with it. Still a lot of intrusive thoughts about my powers telling me the best way to kill people with whatever I’m holding at any given time, but you tend to ignore that. It’s like background noise.”
“Have you considered therapy?”
“Not yet.” Grandmaster takes the cup and takes a small sip. “It’s not that bad. A little worse than it has been. Not as bad as when I first got Fartouched. I’ll survive. How’s the insomnia going?”
“As well as you are. There’s good money when you don’t need to sleep.”
“That’s one advantage. Count your lucky stars for that.”
“Mm.” Impetus said, leaning forward. “I heard you caught Michael Burnham last night.”
“Word gets around quickly.” Grandmaster said, nodding. “Sure did. Me and Verus took him out. But, let me just run it through you. I need an opinion on it all.”
“So there’s Burnham. He’s been working the black market for years now. He’s smart, ruthless, he knows what he’s doing. He’s been cutting deals with low level thugs and gangs so it’s harder to trace it back to him. Takes me a week to drag the information out of one of his hired goons from the Technomads. This guy isn’t a small fry, is what I’m saying, and he’s not an idiot.”
Impetus nodded again.
“So this guy, Burnham, gets a phone call from one of his lackeys and tells him, we need to meet up at this pub in Stockport where they met before. Says he thinks he’s got some information on the stuff he’s sold to him and he thinks there’s a job opportunity, but it’d be safer to speak in person. Burnham, for whatever reason, says yes. He meets up, me and Verus are there waiting for him. And all he has to defend himself is a pair of hired thugs, and he tries to run away.”
“My question is, what do you think about that?”
Impetus considers it for a moment. “Very easy. Too easy.”
“Exactly. Why the hell did this guy get caught?”
“The answer that makes the most sense would be, that he wanted to be caught.”
“That’s what I thought.” Grandmaster points to Impetus. “But that raises another question. What’s he got to gain from getting caught like a moron?”
“I cannot say. Maybe he turned over a new leaf. He felt so guilty, he wanted to turn himself in.”
“That’s one hell of a hopeful sentiment you have. Must be nice being so optimistic.”
“That’s the best answer I can tell you, Grandmaster. I cannot answer for him. You’ll have to ask him yourself.” Impetus leaned back on his chair. “I’m to assume you’ll be interrogating him for answers.”
“Yup. It’s the only way I’m going to get answers.”
“You always seem to be putting yourself forward. Too many operations where you’re in charge that you don’t need to be.”
“I guess I like to make myself seem more important than I really am. It must be why we’re good friends.”
Impetus grinned slightly. “That must be it.”
“Could do with somebody sitting and watching if you’re up for it.”
“If I get time, I will.” Impetus nodded. “I’ll see if I can. When are you going?”
“After this coffee, I’m gonna take a slash and then drag him out of his cell, and the fun will begin then.”
“I’ll have to see.”
Impetus nodded, and stood himself up from his chair. “Not a pleasure, as always, Grandmaster. I’m going to the gym after this morning shift. Do you fancy joining me?”
“Might do, yeah. I’ll see ‘if I get the time’.” Grandmaster grinned back. “Talking to you is the worst thing that happens to me. This coffee is rated higher right now.”
Impetus just smiled and began to walk away. “We will speak soon.”
“Later.” Grandmaster said, giving him a slight wave.
He stared into the reflection he made in the coffee before he took another sip from it, and put it back down on the table as he swilled it around his mouth. Begrudgingly, he swallowed it down, and pushed himself out from the table. As he put on his helmet, his voice became distorted by it halfway through what he was saying. “Actually, I change my mind. The coffee and Impetus are about the same today.”
The coffee was abandoned on the table, to grow cold and be poured away as Grandmaster left the cafeteria.
A clanging of metal woke up Michael Burnham rudely, jolting upright on his uncomfortable bed. He raised his hand up as if to strike something, restraining himself when he realised that he was still in his cell, and the knocking had come from the door. He grumbled lowly to himself and sat upright, still in the clothes he wore yesterday. He watched the hatch open downwards, as a pair of eyes stared into his prison cell accusingly. He was met with a male voice.
“Rise and shine, Burnham. You’re going in for early questioning today.”
Michael sat upright on the bed and rubbed his eyes for a good ten minutes, until his eyes began to open more clearly. The rough sleep he had made half of his face feel numb, and he needed time to adjust.
“No breakfast?” He asked, turning to the hatch.
“Breakfast after questioning. The sooner it takes, the quicker you get something to eat.”
“I talk better when my belly’s full’a grub.”
“That’s not what’s going to happen. We’re going to come into the cell, put handcuffs on you and escort you to the questioning room. Any attempt to escape and we will be forced to incapacitate you. Is that understood?”
“Loud and fuckin’ clear.” Was his response, and he stood up off the bed, stretching his arms upwards. The guard turned and nodded to the side, to a person that Michael couldn’t see. After a few seconds, the door began to click and the internal mechanisms came to life with grinding gears and other mechanical noises. Soon after, the door opened.
A pair of guards, both male, were waiting for him. The one on the left had a pair of handcuffs at hand, whilst the other walked into the cell first. The guard with the cuffs followed afterwards.. Michael stared at the first guard for a few seconds until he spoke.
“Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
“You’re the boss.” He said, in a mock tone. He turned, and extended his hands backwards. The guard gripped him by the upper arms and shifted to the side. The other guard secured the handcuffs around his wrists, tight enough to restrain but not tight enough to dig into the skin. The guard holding him let go, and held onto Michael’s biceps and gave him a nudge. He turned around, and he was lead out of the cell. “Not much point in tryin’ to do a runna’.”
“If everyone was as sensible as that, it’d make our lives much easier.”
Michael turned to the guard, and a grin pulled along his face. “If only.”
The trip to the questioning room wasn’t very long, as both buildings were connected by one corridor, a long windowless hallway that lead directly to the headquarters, where the first few doors were that of the questioning room and the room where observations of what occurred in the former room took place. All the while, he curiously looked about, watching people going past, studying their faces, perceiving the curves and turns of the building ahead of him.
He was put inside the room and sat on a chair, hands stuff cuffed behind his back, and the guards locked the door upon absconding. He looked around, staring at the individual table ahead of him, and the dots of black around the room. The lack of reflective glass made him more curious about how he was being observed, but for the time being he was content to stare at the door, until it opened ten minutes later with a click to the lock.
He studied the figure clad in carbon fibre body armour, eyes dancing over the mask and the glowing blue eyes that stared back at him as he took a seat opposite him, letting a file drop onto the table in front of him. He opened it up, letting the blue glints of light stare downwards onto the page, absorbing the information.
“Michael Burnham.” Grandmaster said, his voice echoing with a distortion. “Fourt five year old, Caucasian male. Normally, I go through each and every one of your offences, but quite frankly, I want to go home on time, so we’ll skip that whole bit. Let’s just summarise it as ‘a lot of bad things’. That fine with you?”
Michael tilted his head slightly. “You’re the fella that caught me, with that kid.”
Grandmaster nodded. “One and the same. Good ears you’ve got there.”
Michael nodded back. “Faces and voices, two things I’m always good at rememberin’.”
“So I’ve been lead to believe. You’re a very wanted man, Michael. A lot of good people want you behind bars. A lot of bad people want you dead.”
Michael grinned widely, pulling his lips apart so Grandmaster could see his teeth reflect the light. “Gotta reputation to keep. I get the feelin’ I’m not getting my call, or my soliciter.”
“That ain’t a good thing, and you’d be right. No call, no lawyer.” Grandmaster continued to study the file as he spoke, his mask making it hard to tell what he was focused on. “It does beg a few questions in the grand scheme of things, which is why you’re here instead of enjoying a lovely breakfast of lukewarm porridge. I’m not complimenting you, so don’t misunderstand me when I say, you’re not an idiot. You’ve been in this game for a long time. You tripped up badly, and there’s not a chance a man like you didn’t see this coming.”
Grandmaster watched, and he assumed that Michael was restraining a smile, a slight tremble on his cheeks.
“If people do good work for me, I treat ’em well. Gave him the benefit of the doubt. Didn’t think the pigs would send the freaks on me.”
“You’re at least aware that this is in the NFU’s hands now.” Grandmaster said, reaching down to close the file. His head tilted up, and his attention was brought onto Michael. “Mike, I’m having to suspend a lot of disbelief here, because ‘giving the benefit of the doubt’ to a scumbag like Macey sounds about as stupid as actually meeting him.”
“Macey did good work for me. Rewardin’ good work keeps people workin’ for you. Trustin’ ’em helps. It’s all part of the great plan to keep it all runnin’.”
“Getting caught by me and a kid was part of your ‘great plan’ as well, I take it.” Grandmaster’s helmet ran protocols through his visor and vision, locking onto Michael’s face. It began to ran scans, diagnostics, the intention tracking program starting to analyse him as he responds.
Michael paused for a second. “Na’, not so much that.”
Grandmaster’s helmet whirred into action. A few seconds passed in silence, where Grandmaster assumed that it would have responded sooner. It finally finished, and came up with text in his vision.
INTENTION SCAN INCONCLUSIVE.
Grandmaster frowned, though Michael couldn’t see it through his helmet. A small window of text appeared to the left.
FACIAL SCAN INCONCLUSIVE. CAUSE: UNKNOWN.
BODY LANGUAGE AND TONE INDICATE 22% CHANCE OF DECEPTION, 78% CHANCE OF TRUTHFUL INTENT.
Grandmaster kept up the pace, applying some more pressure.
“You wouldn’t be trying to lie to me, would you Burnham? Because right now, you honestly don’t need a charge of perverting the court of justice added to your long list of how screwed you are when you go to jail.”
“I think you’re misunderstandin’ me. Look at it from where I am, sitting in this chair and starin’ at your fuckin’ masked face. At t’end of the day, I’m fucked, no two ways ’bout it. I’m off ta jail for a long time, the pigs lock me up and throw a fuckin’ party, pop open the bubbly and act like fuckin’ heroes.. I ain’t got anythin’ to gain from being here, ya daft prick. Why the fuck would I wanna be caught? Is it that hard to think that I might have trusted somebody not to fuck me over?”
Grandmaster checked his intention tracker again. The percentage of truthful intent rose to 89%.
“So you’re gonna play nice, is what you’re saying to me. Ballsy move, for a guy who’se good at saving his own skin.”
Michael grinned at that last comment. “Savin’ it again now. Now’s about the time you offer me a deal.”
“You’ve got nothing I want, except to see you behind bars for a long time.”
“You wanna know why I did it. The robberies, hirin’ Doppler’s crew. I know you can’t use what’s said here in a court’a law, but I know that’s what you want.”
Grandmaster leaned forward. It took him a second to respond. “You’re offering a confession.”
“To the recent stuff. Like fuck am I tellin’ you anythin’ about what I did before, but you wanna get down to what’s goin’ on? Cut me some years off, I’ll give you that.”
The sound of fingers strumming on the table echoed through the poor acoustics of the room. “Not convinced. Why? You get caught and you roll over. Not buying what you’re selling.”
Michael stomped onto the floor, causing an abrupt noise. His voice snarled, breaking the façade of restraint. “Because if I’m goin’ down, I want the cunt who got me into this goin’ down with me too.”
Grandmaster didn’t respond to the noise, nor the tone of aggression. The words however, made him sit upright in his chair, the intention tracker running in the background, protocols feeding him information from .
BODY LANGUAGE AND TONE INDICATE 86% CHANCE OF INTENT OF REVENGE.
“I give you a confession of him pullin’ the strings, an’ I can even get you some hard evidence that it was him. Confession, plead guilty, stitch the fucker up. If I’m goin’ down. I take him with me. You finish yer’ case, I get outta jail earlier, an’ maybe I can stab the bastard when he’s in with me. Win win for everyone.”
Grandmaster leaned forward. As much as he wasn’t being given much information from his helmet, he could feel a burning in his chest. A relentlessness being offered respite, as Michael preyed on his desire for justice and to finish what he started, the end to the chain he was pulling.
In the moment he felt tempted, he felt himself give in.
“Who’se behind all of this?” He asked. “No games. Give me his name, Burnham.”
Michael leaned back on his chair, and once again his lips parted and an uncomfortably wide grin crept over his face. The prisoner revelled in the control he had over the conversation at this moment in time.
“I’ll tell you his name, alright.” Michael said. “You might have heard of him. Goes by the name of Anthony Barnes.”