As the phone starts to ring, I’m already reconsidering my choices. Maybe I should be calling Mr. Steele, my boss at the construction site. He’s been remarkably understanding in the past about me skipping work for vague reasons, and he didn’t ask any questions about my involvement in cosmetically destroying the construction site. So if he didn’t judge me for that, probably he won’t for this, either. Also, I haven’t actually let him know I won’t be at work today, although he’s probably figured that out by this hour. I wonder if I’d be the first person to call in sick to their job from jail?
This train of thought comes to an abrupt end when the phone is picked up on the other end.
“Hello?” says a woman’s voice, sounding vaguely irritated to have been interrupted.
“Doc!” I say with relief. “Good, hi. I didn’t know if you’d be up. Um, have you talked to anybody today?”
“No one out of the ordinary. What’s going on?” asks Doc Simmons. Of the people I could have called, she’s not the most likely to get me out of this immediate situation, but she might be my biggest asset down the line. With Peterson and Regina both under the influence of Ichabot’s suggestion nanos, and Brian sedated to keep down the fury of the nemesis, Simmons is the last person who knows what’s going on with me and is on my side. Plus, she’s taking care of Brian, so I need to keep her in the loop to make sure he stays safe.
Also, she’s brilliant, so that can’t really hurt here. If I’m very lucky, she’ll have a solution to my immediate predicament as well.
There’s a short pause, in which I can basically hear the doc’s brain assembling the scenario that must have led to this. She wasn’t at Ichabot’s laboratory to watch it go down, of course, but she knew that we were going after him this morning. So if I’m in jail, clearly things did not work out as planned. The details, while interesting, are irrelevant to the current situation. I can practically hear her saying that exact phrase.
“Okay,” she says. “How bad is it?”
“Bad. Ichabot’s got Tanger’s power and he whammied Peterson and Regina. You’ve got to steer clear of him.”
The police officer who led me over here clears her throat and looks pointedly at a clock on the wall.
“Um. Also, I need a lawyer, I think?”
“Right,” says the doc, almost absently. She’s clearly working on something else, and I can only hope it’s related to getting me out of here. “I mainly know medical malpractice lawyers, but they should be able to recommend someone. I suppose that the odds of you having any money are low?”
“Yeah, I just spent my reserves on a car. They haven’t set bail or anything. I don’t even know what I’m charged with. Ichabot told them I’m deranged!”
“Wrap it up,” says the cop, hand on her Taser.
“You’re at City Hall?” asks the doc.
“Yeah, City Hall,” I confirm. The policewoman motions curtly to the phone, and I add, “Gotta go. Thank you. Avoid — basically everyone, I guess.”
I hang up the phone, and the officer raises an eyebrow at me.
“So did you get a lawyer out of that?” she asks.
“I think so, yeah. Hey, what am I being charged with?”
She shrugs. “Don’t care.”
Way to protect and serve, I think, but I don’t say it. She still has a Taser and has been told that I’m deranged, and I’m not interested in getting shocked. I’ve been hit by lightning before, and it’s probably not nearly as bad as that, but I really don’t want to be able to do a compare and contrast.
I return to the communal cell, take an uncomfortable bench seat and attempt to plan out where things go from here. I’m not always great at following plans, but I like to have them so at least I know exactly where things started to go off the rails.
Phase one: stay in jail until lawyer comes. I’m already succeeding at that! Off to a good start.
Phase two: explain situation to lawyer, get out of jail. Actually, if I explain the real situation to the lawyer, it seems unlikely that he’s going to believe me. “I was hunting the mad scientist who gave me superpowers when he suddenly mind-controlled my friends” is not a compelling argument against being deranged. Especially when you add “I can’t show you the superpowers, he took them away” as a followup. Even if it happens to be true.
So, stepping back a bit, I’d better add in a phase one-A: make up a believable and internally-consistent story before the lawyer gets here.
Okay, so what’s irrefutable? I went with Peterson to an office owned by Rossum Medical Supply. While there, I opened a door — well, dissolved it, but we’re avoiding mention of superpowers, so we’ll stick with “opened” — to a laboratory in which a scientist was working. That scientist, most recently referred to as Dr. Argute, has also been known to go by Dr. Amun, Dr. Acharya, Dr. Amici and probably a bunch of other A-names, but I call him Ichabot. I broke some stuff in his lab, he called me deranged, and here we are.
That’s a relatively true explanation, even if it does leave out some massively important parts. It’s reasonable, though, and that’s what I’m going for here. I don’t know what they’re planning on charging me with here, but from the scenario I’ve outlined, it doesn’t seem like it could be much worse than destruction of property. In the worst case, maybe they could go as high as breaking and entering, though I think that’d be a reach. Even in that case, though, it’s nothing where they wouldn’t let me post bail, so that’ll get me to the end of phase two.
On to phase three, then: get Peterson and Regina back on my side. All I’ve got to do is force them to think about the parts where Ichabot’s suggested ideas don’t match up with what they know to be true. Given that Peterson has watched me summon fire and disintegrate objects with my hands, not to mention helping cover up the aftermath of a fight with a guy who could grow living flesh out of inanimate objects, it shouldn’t be too hard to push him out of “derangement” camp and back into “weird though it is, it must be true.”
And Regina actually had a superpower herself, even if they did try to talk her out of believing it in the hospital afterward. She’ll either have to convince herself that I’m pulling her into a massive folie a deux, or admit that I’m not crazy.
The real trick with phase three will be getting close enough to talk, but I can probably manage that with a phone call or an email if I have to. I’d remark here on the wonders of technology, but I suppose I could do the same thing with a handwritten letter slipped under a door, too. So: the wonders of literacy!
This leaves me with phase four: get Ichabot. Although this is the simplest of the phases in concept, the execution is by far the most complex. After all, we tried to put it into action this morning, and now I’m in jail with almost no friends. So it’s probably worth putting some brainpower into.
We know where he is now, so that’s an advantage. Obviously, he could move, but his lab didn’t look particularly mobile, and he has no real reason to run away. As far as he knows, I’m locked up and he’s safe.
Actually, that’s true as far as I know, too. I’m just working to change that, is all.
The suggestion nanos are the big hurdle here. We need to find a way to avoid them. Possibly we can arrest him through some manner of robot? One of those bomb-disposal robots, maybe. They have cameras and fine motor control, I would assume. I don’t think they’re very fast, though, so Ichabot would have to acquiesce to putting the handcuffs on. Also, I don’t know if the police department here has a bomb disposal bot. They don’t even have a building right now, so I’m guessing that robots aren’t high on their list of things to buy.
Can robots make arrests if there’s someone operating them remotely? If this hasn’t come up in court yet, I bet it will soon.
The robot’s kind of a pipe dream, but maybe hazmat suits? Anything that’ll keep out viruses and bacteria should keep out nanomachinery. Then Peterson could walk right up to Ichabot without fear of getting new ideas forced into his head. It wouldn’t be the most subtle approach, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be effective.
This brings us back to the question of whether the police department here has hazmat suits, but if they don’t, I’m pretty sure I can pick up something similar at Home Depot. I don’t know that those give full coverage, but we can improvise with duct tape. It won’t be the most comfortable thing in the world, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices to catch a supervillain.
I’m still going to ask about the robot, though. I don’t want to go in with a duct-taped hazmat suit, only to find out later that we could have sent a robot. That’s the sort of thing that leaves you with a lifetime of regrets.