Chapter 22 – The Hunt

“Are you sure about this?” I asked as I double-checked that my access into the Canadian Super Team system hadn’t been disturbed since I last used it.

Paris finished a loud slurp echoing from her mug and, featuring the last lonely arc of pastry in her other hand, jabbed, “No, li’l bro. If I was sure I wouldn’t want you to get the files.”

Nodding, I returned my attention to the interface. Both Carcajou and Velo had known secret identities and extensive profiles. I quickly downloaded their main files, searched and grabbed a couple of more restricted ancillary files, and took the time to cover my tracks. Paris tapped noisily on her tablet with her stylus, looking out of place in the folding chair I had set out for her behind my own wheeled leather office chair. I had shown her around the basement two years ago after I’d finished the supercomputer rig, but that was it – my basement is not a space where I ever entertain guests. Paris was helping me, at my explicit request, and it was still a grating imposition.

The profiles were in a shared folder that she had access to, and I heard a very satisfied ‘Aha’ as she continued her tapping.

After another couple of minutes I cracked. “Anything to share?”

She looked at me with a barely concealed grin and nodded. A couple of button presses and her display was mirrored by one monitor. It showed a simple table with three columns: Valour, Snowshoe, and Lamarck. Each attribute was shown in parallel across a row.

“The problem is simple: there is no pattern here. Valour and Snowshoe are the same age, comparable in power level, both born and raised in Canada, keep many of the same contacts. Lamarck is vastly more powerful -”

“There’s no objective metric for that,” I cut in. Power ‘ratings’ are ridiculously subjective.

“Super Team membership – local, regional, or national,” she rebuked me for being surly. “I know I’ve heard you say ‘local-tier’ before, man – don’t be a jerk about it.” She tapped a couple of buttons, and the third column changed from Lamarck to Velo. “And here we have a clear pattern. Three Canadians who… get this… went to college together.”

I looked at the data – wow. “University of Alberta in Edmonton. A two-year overlap. That’s really… I mean, it’s…” I shook my head. “What made you think to look at this?”

“Degrees of freedom,” she explained. “When the facts aren’t all adding up, find the ones with the most wiggle. We have two precision kills at close range, and a third that relies on a long range shot onto a crowded street.” She shrugged. “What if he missed his intended target? The question jumps out at you.”

“So you figure the RCMP investigators have been asking this question?”

“Yeah, but they don’t have the data to answer it. We do. The killer missed.” She finished the last bite. “And I’d bet three more of these things – with double icing – that he went to school with the victims.”

“No bet.” I pulled up the school’s website. “Around seventy-five thousand students would have attended sometime during those two years. Still not a manageable list.”

She shrugged. “Search against the database of augment subjects. And anyone else who knows where the clinics are: government scientists, military, cleaning people. Cast a wide net, you’re still not gonna get more than a dozen names.”

“The chance of someone other than a subject being a viable augment is unlikely.”

My sister condescended, “The chance that at least one of the thousands of people who have happened to pass near a beam emitter is a viable augment is pretty likely.” She let out a small sigh. “Homicide is rare, thankfully, because homicide only happens at the extremes.” She ticked off her fingers. “Extreme provocation, extreme psychosis, extreme danger, extreme reward. That also means you can’t ignore the rare events, the outliers, because your priors already embody the unlikely.”

“It only takes one. Huh.” I mirrored her sigh with one of my own. “It’s largely academic, anyway, because we don’t have a database with educational information even for the subjects themselves.”

She openly smirked at me, then frowned into her empty cup. Carefully rising to her feet for a refill, she shot, “You have names, right? For subjects and employees? Get a school registry for the two years and see who’s on both lists.”

I had, in fact, come to the same conclusion and was already hunting for an in to the university registrar’s system. I was downloading the records by the time Paris set back down with a steaming cup and another roll.

There were four hits. Two were false positives – not the university students but different people with the same name. One university alum was a test subject with shapeshifting powers. The other was a DRDC researcher.

Jordan Meer, according to his CV, had a masters degree in molecular biology from the University of Alberta; his masters thesis involved running tests on tissue samples from volunteer supers to stimulate omicron emission. He had been hired by the DRDC directly out of Edmonton and put to work correlating omicron sensor data with particular subjects and tests.

The previous Monday, Meer had been scheduled to come into work at the Montreal clinic at noon. He had, in fact, entered the building more than an hour before the rest of the staff and hidden in a corner of a cluttered stockroom for several hours. The corner was opposite the emitter room, and he was as close to the upsilon beam as the slated subjects, if not closer. Shortly after the emitter was deactivated, Meer disappeared from the room. He became visible in a toilet stall nearby and performed his duties as normal the rest of the day.

I was not in the least surprised that the following day, Mr. Meer’s day off, he decided to take a road trip to Ottawa with a disassembled M16 automatic rifle carefully concealed in the spare tire well of his car. While Paris waited patiently next to me, I watched him park in a multi-level hospital lot about three miles north of the Ottawa Civic Hospital campus. He carefully assembled his weapon right there in the trunk of his vehicle, and then disappeared again.

I had seen enough. Dropping the View, I sighed, “It’s him. Jordan Meer, DRDC lab tech.” I took a swig of bottled water. “I’ll make sure he still has the M16 in his house and see what other evidence I can point the Mounties to. But there’s no doubt that this is the guy.”

Paris nodded. “Good work, li’l bro. Proud of you.”

I shook my head. “It was at least as much you, sis.”

“Nah,” she said, “I was just speeding up the same thought process you would have come to soon enough.” She stood up to stretch, clearly ready to call it a night. “If anything, it’s the agent girl and that hero from Boston you need to thank. They did the running around, and they were the ones who identified the other two cases. We just,” a sly wink, “put it all together. And you, my super powered sibling, confirmed it.”

She left with a hug and an extracted promise that she would hear all about the fallout tomorrow. I dropped back into my View to confirm Meer’s location and status in the present.

Meer and his car weren’t at home or at the clinic. I quickly rewound my View in front of his home and confirmed that he had left Montreal three hours ago heading west toward Ottawa.

On a guess, I shifted my View to the same Ottawa hospital parking garage that the killer had used last week. His car was there again, albeit on the different level of the garage. A quick rewind showed that he had, again, assembled and loaded his M16 before disappearing.

All of this had happened twenty minutes ago. This was no longer just a matter of getting the RCMP to apprehend the killer. He was on the prowl. Velo was in immediate danger.

Connecting to the system received an immediate answer. “This is Ottawa Super Team headquarters. Are you Delphic?” I recognized the voice from last week’s incident. Her name was ‘Calm-‘… no… ‘Stillwater.’

“This is Delphic,” I replied. “I need to contact Velo immediately. It’s an emergency.”

“Acknowledged. Calling Velo.”

I continued, “Is Velo on patrol?”

“Yes, he patrols retail districts after dark a couple of times a week. What’s the emergency?”

“Lamarck’s killer is loose with Velo as his likely target.”

“Oh! That’s -” I heard a voice in the background, then Stillwater repeated, “Velo isn’t responding. He carries a cell phone on him but if he’s in traffic it’s often a few minutes before he stops to answer it.”

“Do you have his position?”

“No, he doesn’t have a comm unit on him when he patrols. Just the phone. Technically he’s not on OST duty right now.”

“What’s his cell number?” I punctuated the request with a text message into the OST system, which is handled by a different staff member in the HQ. I received a text response with Velo’s number.

“Sending,” replied Stillwater.

“Stand by,” announced my Delphic voice as I began a search against the carriers for Velo’s phone. While that was running, I made another call.

“Yo,” Spinner answered.

“Spinner, this is Delphic. How fast can you get to Ottawa?”

After a minute, he answered, “I’m in Buffalo. I could grab a car and be there by midnight. Why?”

“I found the killer, and he’s in Ottawa right now. He’s after Velo.”

“Who?”

“The speedster standing next to Lamarck when he was shot. Velo was the real target.”

Spinner cursed. “Have you tipped him off so he can lay low?”

“I’m working on it.”

“I’ll be there in 45 minutes,” Spinner said with increased certainty. I could only imagine how he would manage that, but now wasn’t the time.

“I’ll message you with GPS coordinates of where he turned invisible. He’ll have more than an hour’s head start, though.”

“Keep ‘im alive until I get there. Ottawa HQ knows?”

“They do.”

“‘kay, see you soon.” He cut the channel.

“Ottawa HQ,” I had Delphic send over their line again.

“Delphic,” replied Stillwater’s voice. “We’ve not received an answer from Velo and still don’t know his location. Can you provide more details on the suspect?” I notice she didn’t say ‘killer’ like I did.

“Jason Meer, twenty-eight, sending an image now. Armed with an M16 assault rifle, no optics. Presumed to have flight and invisibility. Motives unknown.” I sent the profile picture along with a link to a publicly available CV; I refrained from sending any of the DRDC files. I also added coordinates and an address for the parking garage while saying, “He was here at 2035 local time. Spinner is in-bound to that location, arrival time of 2145. We have to secure the target.”

“This isn’t an exercise, eh? Let’s get boots on the ground.” Stillwater kept the channel open but it was clear she was addressing the people around her, not me. “Get OPD to put out an all-points on Velo, they know what he looks like.”

A man’s voice, soft due to distance from the pick-up, said, “A fan site says he was spotted in Overbrook about ten minutes ago.” That was something I could work with. I glanced at a map to relate Overbrook to my most recent View locations and dropped into the present. Drifting into that neighborhood, I moved my vantage into that neighborhood and rewound, looking for the bicyclist super.

Even narrowed down to within a dozen blocks, though, I couldn’t spot him. The streets reflected a steady flow of after-dinner traffic, nowhere near as thick as rush hour but still including dozens of bikers within site at any moment. It was quite possible that Velo, when he did appear, would be moving at high speed, leaving me stuck combing the streets at a crawling rewind, hoping for better intel.

The same quiet male voice reported, “Toronto HQ says Full Tilt got word and is on his way, ETA eight minutes. They’ve put a helo in the air with two heavies as well.”

Stillwater sighed. “That’s, what, an hour fifteen to get here? Good on Full Tilt but tell the helicopter to turn around.”

“Incoming call from Velo.”

“Finally! Connect to us and Delphic.”

The sounds of moving traffic and background chatter upwelled behind the super’s voice. “HQ, it’s Velo. What’s the fuss? I’m standing here with a constable says you got an APB out on me.” His voice was strong and high with a pleasant Canadian lilt, slightly distorted from the poor cellular signal.

“Velo, we have Delphic on the line. He reports -”

“Oh Delphic, eh? I saw that mess with the First Nations folks the other day. You still workin’ the Lamarck case?” Velo’s tone was perfectly at ease, and he pushed forward quickly into pleasant conversation.

“Delphic here. We have identified the killer as Jordan Meer. Velo, you were the target, not Lamarck.”

“Jordan Meer? From university? Man I haven’t seen that guy in years.” Some urgency was creeping into Velo’s tone, but not nearly enough.

Stillwater diverted the conversation. “Jordan Meer is at large in Ottawa and expected to target you again. Velo, can you please give us your location so we can send assistance?”

“I’m at Whately and Maple over near Central right now. But, wait, the killer was invisible, yeah? Jordan’s not a super.”

“Apparently he is,” Stillwater snapped.

“No, you don’t understand. It was a whole thing?” He gathered his thoughts before explaining, “Jordan was in a club for supers, secret membership and all, like a support group. We found out he was lying about having powers. He was kicked out of the club, almost got expelled from the school.”

Motive. “Velo,” I asked, “were Bertrand Saxena and Sujoko Inran also members of this group?”

The super coughed, then cursed. There was a short pause, and then he cursed again. “How… did Jordan…?”

“Jordan killed them.” There was no time to step softly.

He cursed again. “But why would Jordan conceal his powers when -”

Stillwater cut in, “His motives are a discussion for later. You need to take cover.”

“Right,” Velp agreed. “If this guy is a sniper, I could zip over to the mall garage and head to an underground level.”

Whately and Maple… I checked the map again, and in another minute I finally got Velo in my View. I saw a trickle of foot traffic rubbernecking around the marked cruiser with its flashers on pulled up to the sidewalk. Velo was leaning on his bike next to a uniformed cop, holding a… flip phone, of all the backwards nonsense… awkwardly over his helmeted ear.

“Definitely take cover,” Stillwater agreed, “but also steer clear of civilians. Meer didn’t hesitate to shoot at you before, despite the surrounding crowd.”

“So what’s the plan? Are we baiting him out?” I watched as Velo nodded in the cop’s direction and jumped back on his bike, merging with traffic and maneuvering one-handed while his other held the phone.

A pause told me Stillwater was considering, so I had Delphic point out, “Putting the target out as an enticement is high risk with low reward. Spinner will arrive in a half hour and can track Meer. I suggest Velo get entirely out of sight, probably out of costume.”

“You’re figuring,” Velo’s voice echoed in the low-ceiling garage, “that Jordan won’t get frustrated looking for me and just start shooting. I’m not okay hiding if it puts civilians at risk.”

“Jordan Meer has not attacked at random before. There is no reason to believe this has changed.”

“The loon with the machine gun is real predictable, eh?” I heard bitter amusement in the super’s voice.

“Velo,” Stillwater’s tone remained calm as always. “The OST members currently on shift would like to rendezvous with you to provide support.”

“Sure, but why?” He chuckled. “It’s Fray, Zed-M, and the Mallet, yeah? None o’ them can take a bullet any better than me.”

I checked the shift roster on the OST system and confirmed. Fray had electrical powers, as I had seen the previous week when she took down the bone thief. Zed-M could create force constructs at a distance, but they were too fragile to work as armor. The Mallet was strong enough to swing a big mallet. I was starting to wonder how cities in Canada justified staffing their super teams like this.

Velo and Stillwater were also on the list, and… “Stillwater, are you bulletproof?” I asked.

“I… not officially, but yes.” Her tone was quieter than it had otherwise been.

“Why not have Stillwater wear Velo’s costume?”

Silence reigned for a minute before Stillwater herself answered, “I can’t think of any reason why not.”

4 thoughts on “Chapter 22 – The Hunt

  1. Well, this is an interesting development… I imagine that just like with vests there’s no such a thing as a bulletproof anything. It can be resistant to bullet up to a certain caliber, so this hero “unofficially bulletproof” may be in for interesting times if the sniper is shooting bullets beyond his ability to resist.
    I have to say that I did not expect this result, I thought the investigation was going to run longer than this. I had all this conjecture that Lamark was involved with the medical project of Dr Stevens and in the end his death was only accidental.
    I have to say the sniper was really unlucky, if he had not killed lamark he would have probably gotten away with it, given that most investigators wouldn’t have access to details about the real identities of superheroes.

    Liked by 2 people

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