Chapter 181: 22
Asmall, white haired, white eyed, white robed woman manifested above, near the ceiling of the sizable transport. She was small and made herself even smaller by sitting with her legs drawn up and her arms hugging them like a child. She floated in the air as if in zero gravity. "Hello, Irregular," said the woman as she waved at Aldrich in a greeting. Her voice showed no hint of emotion. Neither did her face. She was unreadable to
Aldrich not in the same way as Solomon Solar who had lived a fake life for so long he was a master at hiding himself.
No, she was unreadable because there literally was nothing to read.
As if she was not a human at all.
There was something strangely off about this woman. Aldrich could not quite place it, but when he looked at her, he felt like he saw something completely uncanny. Something that did not belong. Like seeing a car in a medieval village.
One thing Aldrich did note, though, was that he could sense threat from her.
His instinct was not so sharp that he could accurately parse exactly how strong she was - he needed Volantis's truesight for that - but it was honed enough to know what was a threat or not.
And this woman was a threat. "And I assume you're his guard dog meant to take me down if I misbehave?" said Aldrich. "We will protect that one if needed," said the woman, or, as Colonel Davos called her, '22'. "But we would prefer not to engage in hostilities with you. You are too powerful to engage without being willing to sacrifice much of us." "Then that makes two of us. I'm not here to fight, I'm here to wait for my hearing," said Aldrich. He briefly scanned the room, trying to wonder what the woman meant by 'we', but figured that it was an oddity of hers to refer to herself in the plural.
Aldrich realized that the plane was still moving, still in the air. "I would ask you to take me to my cell, but considering we're still in the air, 1 assume you have a few things you want to talk to me about." "Just a few things you should note," said Colonel Davos. "The place you're going to is known as a Crypt. It's a 'Cold' Crypt, meaning it's meant for safe containment of individuals or small groups only.
Down there, you'll be protected to the absolute best of our abilities.
Nobody knows about this location except a select few, and 22 here will be your guard to ensure nothing tries to get to you in the off chance that someone, say that corporate suit, somehow managed to leak where you are." "Safe containment? You're throwing me down a pit and telling me it's for my safety?" said Aldrich. "I guess that's amusing in its own way." "Trust me, that Crypt is one of the safest places in this world that I know of," said Colonel Davos. "And I know far more than I should.
Here's what will happen. At my command, a hatch will open up, and you'll be beamed down into the Crypt. You will be going several hundred meters underground into a naturally occurring Null Zone.
Do not be alarmed - the gravity beam won't cut off due to the Null Zone, and it will penetrate deep enough to land you safely.
At the bottom, you'll find yourself in a secured, cylindrical structure of metal thick enough that without powers, you're never going to drill through it.
When you're situated at the bottom, the Crypt will close.
Rations will be dropped down to you in intervals of three days, and they will be more than enough to sustain you. A tracker will come with them. Press the button on it, and it'll float back up to the top - this is how we confirm you're still alive.
I understand that I don't know whether you need specific accommodations to keep you alive. The Guardians' bioscans of you all came out with unreadable results.
All I know is that you need this armor. That it's the only thing stopping you from being just a pile of bone.
If you have any other requirements, now's the time to let me know." "None, Colonel," said Aldrich. The less he asked, the less anyone would pay attention to him. "I'm sure whatever bland MRE bar you throw down will be enough to keep me alive. Send down a book or two while you're at it so I don't pass from boredom, will you?" "T'll submit that request," said Colonel Davos. He walked over to a control panel, and when he pressed his hand on it for a scan, a holographic screen popped up. He pressed a few buttons, prompting both the floor and ceiling of the Null Box to slide open.
The Null Box was attached to a pillar of metal above that housed a gravity beam mechanism, and that activated now. Circuit patterns running across the pillar glowed purple, and a beam of the same color passed through the Null Box and down into the windy depths below. "Step into the Null Box again-," began Colonel Davos. "I know," said Aldrich. He walked in, and instead of falling straight down through the open hatch below, he stood suspended in air, weightless. He turned to Colonel Davos. "If we do meet again, Colonel, let's meet on better terms. Because my patience may not be as generous as it was this time." "Noted," said Colonel Davos, maintaining a steely exterior. At least one thing was true: the colonel did not feel fear. "Bye." 22 waved at Aldrich innocently. He just nodded to her. He could not really fathom her.
She was an Irregular, no doubt about it, and so she had no public presence that
Aldrich could reference. She possessed threatening power, and yet, Aldrich could not read any hostile intent from her, if he could even accurately read her through her complete expressionlessness.
A complete wild card. Aldrich would have to be careful in dealing with her.
The colonel pressed a few more buttons on the holographic screen, and Aldrich beamed downwards. He looked down to see night sky, then soon, a yawning dark void surrounded by an empty stretch of dry, cracked earth.
And into that void, Aldrich went.
Colonel Davos watched as the hatch door sealed shut, the sound of wind whirling into the transport fading away into near silence. His gaze lingered on the shut door for a moment. He had come out of this whole interaction with
Thanatos not knowing exactly where that man, no, that Irregular, stood.
He wanted to trust Thanatos if only because it would prevent the massive headache of trying to contain an active, living Irregular of that power, but he knew in his line of work that Irregulars were always difficult to trust.
More often than not, they simply lacked human sensibilities. Or if they did have them, it was because they had observed, adapted, and stolen human behavior as a survival mechanism like 22 had. ‘Thanatos had been classified hastily as an Irregular, but was he truly one?
Colonel Davos knew by now when he was talking to a man or something that pretended to be a man. And he did not get the sense he was talking to the latter with Thanatos.
Colonel Davos sighed in exhaustion as he rubbed his forehead. It was too hard to tell. Regardless, his job here was done. Or he hoped so. The only time
Colonel Davos would see Thanatos again was if he was called to contain him.
So long as Thanatos did not do anything drastic that would label him as a threat, his classification as an Irregular would probably get dropped, especially if he managed to peacefully integrate with authorities.
But it was still better to be prepared. "Do you think you can beat him?" said Colonel Davos. "We are unsure," said 22 as she floated down to the ground and landed on it with her bare feet. "We sense that one is a considerable threat that we would not engage with unless commanded. We would sacrifice approximately 64% of ourselves at the minimum to ensure appreciable chances of success." "64%? That's not bad," said Colonel Davos. He grunted, ridding himself of that optimistic notion. "But he has an entire army hidden somewhere with at least two beings rivaling, if not exceeding his strength.
Three if I count Seismic.
These damn mega corporations. They start wars and now they ruin investigations. If Hammerhead wasn't a major subsidiary of a Council of
Fortune member, I could've had Seismic in my custody."
Colonel Davos looked at 22 and saw she was still staring at the Null Box where ‘Thanatos had been. "What? You've taken a liking to him?" "We are simply interested," said 22 simply. "Remember that you're supposed to guard him," said Colonel Davos. "If I get a sense that you don't understand what that duty entails, then you know the consequences." "Release of a mechanism that causes drastic decay to us," said 22. "We understand." "Good," said Colonel Davos. "I'm going to open a door after Thanatos has been fully secured. Go out through that and keep an eye on him. Make sure nothing gets to him. Use lethal force as required." "We understand" said 22.
Colonel Davos nodded as he walked back to the pilot cockpit, and when he left, 22 still stood there, staring eerily at the box that once held the Irregular. ‘As we thought, you are not from home. You cannot take us back,' thought 22. "But your scent is not from here either.
Like us, you do not belong on this planet..'