Humor, Justice Wing, Superhero, Vignette

⎇001JW Emergence Vignette: The Interrogation

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Justice Wing Emergence Anthology

“I’ve compromised their security system,” Nightstick said, quietly. “The feeds won’t show us in there, and Carter will be tied up in red tape for at least seventeen minutes. The door’s locked and I’ve set a secondary lock-seal on this side to reinforce it. This is our window.”

“Gotcha.” Paragon took a deep breath. “I’ll take bad cop,” he said, after a moment.

Nightstick turned to look at Paragon.

“What? You said it yourself. We’re low on time.”


Justice Wing

Emergence Vignettes

The Interrogation

Starring Nightstick and Paragon

Greystone City, Late Emergence Era

Nightstick and Paragon stared through the one-way glass. On the other side, a supervillain who made his mark with trick-bullet ammo and belt-fed launchers that let him spray automatic weapons-fire with terrifying efficiency and slightly ridiculous results sat, his hands bound and his legs crossed and resting on the table as he leaned back in his wooden chair. Detective Lieutenant Abralyn Carter was standing with them. Officially, the heroes weren’t supposed to be here – and there were enough corrupt cops in Carter’s precinct to make this risky.

Only… even the corrupt cops usually went quiet when Paragon was visiting his pal Nightstick.

“Bandolier’s been at this game for a while,” Nightstick said, his voice low and cool, like always. “He’s one of Beacon’s. Originally he wanted a few high profile heists so he could make money and a reputation, but he got sidetracked into vengeance. He’s sworn he’ll kill the Beacon, sometimes with a plan to make her into one of his weapons, and sometimes just because he wants to.

Says he wants to,” Paragon murmured. “Bandolier’s never killed anyone. He goes out of his way to avoid civilian injuries, and the word from Beacon is he won’t accept contracts or commissions that cross his personal sense of ethics. I think me may be stuck in a cycle he can’t break out of on his own.”

“What a surprise,” Nightstick said, dryly.

“Well, a whole lot of people are gonna get sick and some of them are gonna die if we don’t find out where the Debutante took those chemicals.” Lieutenant Carter sounded grim.

“Random death and chaos isn’t the Debutante’s M.O.,” Nightstick said, eyes narrowing. “She likes four things more than anything: money, jewels, a solid plan, and a media that lavishes thinly disguised praise on her. Gassing the population’s a fast way to lose all of that. I don’t see her throwing it away without a reason.”

“Which means we need to find her fast,” Paragon murmured. “But then we knew that.”

“I can’t officially let you two interrogate him,” Carter said. “You know that.”

“We’re aware,” Nightstick said. “Though Paragon has official sanction these days.”

National sanction,” Carter snapped back. “Covering Federal crimes, maybe Illinois, and I assume Crown City itself. He doesn’t have any kind of official standing in Michigan. Not yet, anyway.” She paused. “I checked.”

“Maybe we should have brought the Lieutenant along,” Paragon said softly, still looking at Bandolier.

There was a beep from Carter’s radio. She pulled it out and listened. “Carter. What– you’re… you’re kidding. You can’t–” she groaned. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move, either of you. Just… stay right there while I go sort out a paperwork mess.” She stormed out of the observation room.

“I’ve compromised their security system,” Nightstick said, quietly. “The feeds won’t show us in there, and Carter will be tied up in red tape for at least seventeen minutes. The door’s locked and I’ve set a secondary lock-seal on this side to reinforce it. This is our window.”

“Gotcha.” Paragon took a deep breath. “I’ll take bad cop,” he said, after a moment.

Nightstick turned to look at Paragon.

“What? You said it yourself. We’re low on time.”

Nightstick kept staring.

“Look, I know that the last time–”

“You always take bad cop,” Nightstick said, quietly. “Are you sure we shouldn’t change this up a bit?”

Paragon smiled. “Maybe next time.”

Nightstick rolled his eyes – it would take paravision to see him do it, of course, since his helmet and cowl obscured his eyes entirely. “Come on.”

Nightstick pushed open the door, and the two walked in.

“Oh, Nightstick,” Bandolier said with a grin. “I should have known you’d–” He paused. “Wait. What’s Paragon doing here?”

“I’m just visiting,” Paragon said, smiling slightly. “Don’t worry.”

“We’re short on time,” Nightstick said, curtly. “Bandolier, the chemicals you helped the Debutante secure are unstable and toxic. Thousands could be hurt if there’s an accidental release. We need to know where she’s taking them, and why.

“Oh, do you?” Bandolier asked, though he kept eyeing Paragon. “Funny, that. You say you need to know, but here I am locked up in parahuman restraints in a police precinct. But tell you what – break me out of here and I’ll gladly show you. That’s a deal, right? I mean, I’m not even parahuman.”

“You’re a skilled escape artist,” Nightstick said. “Take it as a sign of respect. And you can’t believe we’re that gullible.”

“You? Maybe not. Big blue over there?” Bandolier shook his head. “Look, I operate by a code. One of the key tenets of that code is silence. And even if I believed you might go all Foolhardy on me to make me talk, you and I both know Paragon wouldn’t let you do that. Not to an arrested criminal who’s been chained to a chair.”

“That same code says you don’t injure children,” Nightstick snapped. “If that gas leaks, there’s no telling how many children would be caught in the toxic cloud.”

“That’s not my lookout,” Bandolier said. “I made sure the tanks were secure and no kids were hurt. I can’t help what the Debutante does, now can I?”

“You can explain why she’s doing it,” Nightstick hissed. “It’s entirely out of character.”

“Yeah, well… I can’t say I know her well enough to judge.”

“This isn’t getting us anywhere, Nightstick,” Paragon said, softly.

“Give me time–”

“Nightstick.”

“…all right. I’ll go check to see if we’ve gotten any kind of sensor trace on the chemicals. Keep an eye on him. He’s dangerous.”

“I understand,” Paragon said, solemnly.

The Nightstick walked out the door, pulling it shut. Paragon walked over and sat across from Bandolier.

“So, slow week in Crown City, huh? Must be a riot, watching a prosahuman like Nightstick act like he’s in your league,” Bandolier said with a smirk.

Paragon looked at Bandolier. His usual smile was gone.

“Hello? Big blue? You listening to the Champions/Guardians game with parahearing or something?”

Paragon sighed, very slightly, his eyes sad. “I’m sorry, Bandolier,” he said, softly.

“What? Wait, what did you say?”

“I said I was sorry. And I am.”

“You’re… wait. Why are you sorry?” Bandolier looked around himself. “What’s going on. Are you about to spring some kind of… no, not you. You’re not the type. What are you…”

“You know why I’m sorry, Bandolier.” He sighed again, looking down. “I should have done better by you. I should have done better for you.”

“…wait. No, I don’t know. What are you talking about? Don’t think you can play on my sympathies – everyone knows I’m a sociopath–”

Paragon shook his head. “I should have been faster. I should have stopped the transfer before the tanks left the factory. I should have seen what you and the Debutante are up to. I mean… you’re in an impossible situation, and it’s my fault. I know that.” His voice dropped. “I know that.”

“…okay, Paragon? You’re freaking me out.”

“I know what you told Nightstick,” Paragon said. “About your code and its conditions, and I know you’re operating within that code. But I also know you legitimately don’t like death, and kids…” he shrugged. “I know you’re not going to crack. Nightstick doesn’t. He’s always convinced he can crack any criminal, but we just don’t have time. If I’d been better… faster… anything, I could have stopped you and both kept your honor intact and protected the people your crime’s going to hurt and kill. Now… I’m going to have to do my best to either find the gas before there’s an accident or… or I’m going to have to do my best to contain it before too many people are hurt. I just… Bandolier, it’s not going to be your fault. You know that. You did your job, and just like you said you made sure that everything was kept within strict, safe limits.”

Bandolier stared at Paragon. “…reverse psychology, right? You’re trying to–”

Paragon smiled sadly. “Bandolier, you’re a criminal and I’m a hero. The one thing we have in common is we don’t want innocent people hurt or killed – especially children. That’s not reverse psychology. That’s just a fact. And I know there’s nothing you can do. When Nightstick gets back, I’ll insist we go. Just… sit tight. Don’t make a move until all this is over, and you’ll be fine. It’s not your fault.

Bandolier had broken out into a sweat. “Look… Paragon… this is the Debutante. You know she’s not gonna gas kids. It’s not like that.”

“I just know her reputation, but when we’re dealing with something this volatile… she may not mean to hurt anyone, but the risks–” Paragon shook his head. “No. No, I’m not going to guilt trip you. You deserve better than that.”

“I’m a crook!” Bandolier snapped, clearly scared. “Of course I don’t deserve better than–”

“You’re a human being and you do your best, even when you’re breaking the law. I know that.” Paragon closed his eyes. “I should have been faster, Bandolier. This is my fault, not yours. We both know that.”

“…no, no it’s not. Jeez, man. Don’t… don’t do this to me.” Bandolier shook his head. “Alright. Look. There’s a natural gas refinery in North Greystone. She’s gonna commandeer the system and use it to refine the chemicals into a fuel for some machine. It’s not – it’ll be perfectly safe.”

Paragon blinked. “Natural gas… wait. Bandolier, natural gas refineries incorporate a desiccant into the process, to extract water vapor! Usually some kind of silica or alumina, unless it feeds it through glycol. Do you know which one this plant’s using? Because those chemicals will react with ethylene glycol, causing a massive increase in pressure and, if there’s any possibleignition source–”

Bandolier blinked. “I… I have no idea what desiccant the plant uses. But if that thing explodes while the tank’s in the feed… dear God, Paragon, the explosion would be big enough to destroy that whole plant, but that’s not the worst of it – the heat and ignition, combined with the different chemicals and stored unrefined natural gas would lead to a massive release of toxic gas. This stuff literally melts human tissue, it’s heavier than air, and it reacts just enough with moisture to keep it constantly blasting outward! It could cover miles!” Bandolier shook his head. “Deb doesn’t want to do that, Paragon. I swear she doesn’t! She doesn’t know the danger! You’ve got to stop her before she wipes out half of North Greystone! It’s the old Astroleum Production facility – it’s been offline for three, four years! Hurry!

Nightstick opened the door. “All right, I haven’t been–”

“Bandolier,” Paragon said, standing quickly. “Thank you. Nightstick, we have to get to the Astroleum Production facility fast!Hang on!”

Lieutenant Carter opened the outer door just in time for the two heroes to blur out of the room. “What in the–”

“Carter!” Bandolier snapped. “You gotta get everything you can to the Astroleum Production facility! There could be an explosion and a massive release of toxic gas! Hurry!

“…what? If this is some kind of trick–”

“Shut up and hurry!


Three hours later, Nightstick, his sidekick Cudgel, and Paragon stood on the top of one of the plant towers, watching as hazardous containment crews collected the stolen chemicals and the police collected the Debutante and her gang. “I’m telling you,” Nightstick said. “You need to stop being bad cop. It’s just not humane, Paragon.”

“Bandolier will sleep well tonight, even behind bars,” Paragon said. “The chemicals are being safely impounded, the Debutante didn’t accidentally cause a disaster, and no one was hurt.” He looked at Nightstick. “Isn’t that worth it?”

“Look, it’s one thing to terrorize criminals into revealing their plans,” Nightstick said. “They expect that. They know the deal. But earnestness and guilt? Paragon…” He shook his head. “I’m just glad that technique won’t work for anyone else.”

“I’m just glad no one got hurt,” Paragon said, smiling a bit. He nodded to Nightstick. “Cudgel – good to see you again. Sorry I can’t stick around, but I have to get back to Crown City.”

“Safe travels,” Nightstick said. “And… thank you.”

Paragon nodded again, then flew high up and with a streak of gold was gone.

“I don’t get it,” Cudgel said. “Why wouldn’t it work for anyone else?”

Nightstick sighed. “You heard the recording I made, right?”

“Yeah?”

“If anyone else tried that, it would come across as desperate, or manipulative, or just plain obvious.” Nightstick watched as the golden trail faded. “But Paragon means it, Cudgel. When he apologized to Bandolier for failing him? He meant every word. For someone like Bandolier, who lives by a code of honor even if it’s a criminal code? The cold realization that you didn’t just disappoint Paragon, he literally blamed himself for disappointing you?” Nightstick shook his head again. “I really wish he’d let me be bad cop when we work together. The criminals are always more comfortable when I’m bad cop.”

“…I’m glad he’s on our side,” Cudgel said, quietly. “I don’t know if I could bear disappointing him.”

“You and me both, friend. You and me both.”

Series Navigation« ⎇001JW Justice Wing 4P: The Economics of Crimefighting
Liked it? Take a second to support Eric Burns-White on Patreon!

2 thoughts on “⎇001JW Emergence Vignette: The Interrogation”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.