Curveball Issue 36: The Titan’s Shadow

Part Twenty Two: Manhattan, Alpha Checkpoint MCV

Alishia Webb sits alone in the back of a Mobile Command Vehicle, watching all the feeds coming in from the relay points set up around the target. She wishes yet again that she were in the Sky Commando armor, airborne, directing the action from there… but it’s not quite time for that. The big suit is currently tethered to the MCV, acting as a power source to most of the equipment until the generators show up. Which, according to latest reports, should be soon.

All the streets around the Haruspex Analytics building are closed now, and they’ve set up five checkpoints with the oh-so-creative names of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. It’s still very early morning, so it hasn’t disrupted morning traffic—yet—but it will. And even now, outside of business hours, it’s generating a steady stream of angry complaints from City Hall. Webb looks at the blinking message light on the screen in front of her and scowls. She’s only taking calls from certain people at the moment, and the Junior Attache to the City Department of Transportation isn’t one of them.

Not again, at least. The first time was more than enough.

A second notice on her visor is more welcome—the surveillance drones are finally in place, and they have full coverage around the building. She opens the feed, flipping from view to view, trying to get a feel for what’s going on.

The alloy shell encasing the building is clearly visible in the pre-dawn light, as is the man-shaped hole punched through a section near the lobby. The two handcuffed security guards stowed in the little park in front of the building have been carted away, and the arresting officers have retreated back behind the dubious safety of the barricade. There are signs of a fight on the roof of the building—the remains of at least one helicopter along with what she’s sure is point defense artillery.

A third notice appears in her visor, from one of the priority channels beeps: the one dedicated to the Metahuman Division. She activates it immediately.

“Captain Banks.”

“Sky Commando.” Captain Paul Banks has been head of the MTHD for at least long as there’s been a Sky Commando program. In the beginning, from what she understood, he saw Sky Commando as a competitor for funding and political clout. That changed over time, as the two groups learned what each could and couldn’t do, and now they were pretty reliable allies. “I received the official briefing on my way to the scene. Is there… anything else I should know?”

“Yes.” Webb tries to put as much emphasis as she can into that single word. “Face to face?”

“Oh.” Captain Banks sounds startled, then lapses into a soft, thoughtful hmmmm. He’s not a stupid man—he knows that if she’s requesting a face-to-face meeting that there’s something irregular going on. “Where are you?”

“Alpha Checkpoint MCV,” Webb says. “I can come to you.”

“Not necessary,” Captain Banks says. “I’m not far. I’ll be there in five minutes.” The line goes dead, and so she waits.

It’s an odd situation to be in. She’s only a sergeant, and hasn’t even been one for very long, but in this specific situation Banks reports to her, and will until the 10-A5 is resolved and the stand down order is sent.

Which, under most circumstances, only she can send.

Someone raps sharply on the MCV door, three times, then it swings open and Captain Banks steps into the vehicle. He’s an older man, in his early-to-mid-fifties, and has managed to remain fairly trim despite spending much of his time behind a desk. The head of the MTHD doesn’t usually go into the field. At least, not in one of the suits.

Webb half-rises as he steps up into the space, ducking his head to avoid hitting the low ceiling. He smiles sardonically at her show of deference as he waves her back into her seat—he’s just as aware of the awkward clash of rank and authority as she is, probably even more so—then turns to close the door behind him. He glances over the perimeter monitors and drone feeds, just as she had, then slides unceremoniously into the swivel chair beside hers. He looks at her expectantly.

She gestures to the monitors, each showing the Haruspex Analytics building from a different angle. “We have a potential repeat of the TriHealth fiasco, only exponentially worse.”

Captain Banks raises his eyebrows. TriHealth had turned out to be pretty bad. They’d learned that one of their best and brightest officers had been dirty, and that someone had stolen and copied the MTHD’s Metahuman Response Suits.

“I’m working with Division M on this,” Webb says. “And they are working with civilian groups that are probably going to make this entire thing a nightmare when it really hits the press. But I felt you needed to be brought in on this, and the Division M lead agrees.

“Agent Henry, right?” Captain Banks wasn’t the kind of guy to ignore the other players in the city. Webb nods.

“Right…” Banks stares at the building thoughtfully. “What do I need to know?”

“First,” Webb says, “I’m going to play you a statement that was apparently made by Senator Tobias Morgan.”

Captain Banks’ eyebrows raised even higher. “He’s been found?”

“Not… exactly,” Webb says. “Watch the statement first.”

She presses a button on the console in front of her. One of the monitors switches from the feed of the drone to the one queued up in the Sky Commando suit. A picture of Senator Tobias Morgan, sitting on a ratty couch in some hellhole apartment somewhere, comes into focus. The timestamp on the image claims it was recorded only a few hours ago.

The government is full of cabals,” the image of the Senator says. “It’s unavoidable, in the long term.”

Webb doesn’t bother watching the tape. She’s already seen it. She watches the Captain, trying to get a read on how he’s taking it. She notes the flicker of uncertainty in his eyes when the senator says magic. That’s the part that’s going to trip everyone up, she thinks, but that uncertainty is quickly replaced with horror.

That’s right,” the Senator’s image says. “Remember when I said the first virus—the one that didn’t kill people—was discarded because it didn’t last long enough? The virus stays in your blood. Given enough time, it does more than that—it alters your DNA. It becomes a virus that is transmitted through your DNA. You are given tiny little building blocks that embed a kill switch into any human with the metahuman gene. And then—”

“My God,” Banks whispers.

And then,” the image continues, after all the male metahumans are dead, the rest of the world will go back to their lives. And that involves having children.”

It’s not about killing the metahumans we have now,” someone off-camera says. “That’s just collateral damage. They’re making sure there are never any metahumans again. Ever.”

The feed ends. The drone footage returns.

Captain Banks turns to Webb, no longer trying to mask the emotions on his face. Alarm, shock, fear… horror. All there. Not as much doubt as Webb had feared.

“Is this true,” the Captain asks. “Is that really the Senator? Are we sure he hasn’t been coerced?”

“Division M has people working with the group who made the footage,” Webb says. “I know the people, and trust them. The group as a whole is… politically complicated. It involves the use of… extralegal assets.”

Banks’ mouth thins. “Do I want to know?”

“You need to know, if you’re in,” Webb says. “I can’t have your people shooting at the ones on our side. The stakes are too high.”

The Captain, face sour, nods reluctantly. “I see your point. What’s the worst of the group?”

“Agent Grant,” Webb says promptly. “But in the way you mean it, it’s a tossup between Crossfire and Overmind.”

She watches sympathetically as the all-too-familiar look of panic blooms, noting the tension rising in Captain Banks’ posture, and raises her hand just as he opens his mouth, cutting him off just before he’s committed to shouting.

“It’s bad, Captain. Bad in a way that, historically, cuts across old boundaries. You’ve worked city-wide threats before, and you’ve worked with criminals to put those threats down. This is the same situation. The people in that building are much worse than anyone in that group could hope to be, on their worst day. We’re talking genetic plague, Captain.”

The Captain shuts his mouth. His tension has receded, or at least is masked so that it only displays as an unhappy frown. He stares at the images of the Haruspex Analytics building thoughtfully.

“I understand. I don’t… like it, much, but…” He glances at Webb. “You haven’t been Sky Commando very long. I knew Bernard much better. I wish we’d had more time to work together before we got forced into a spot like this.”

“So do I,” Webb says.

“And then there’s the question of why you even bothered to bring me in,” Banks says. “You’re Sky Commando. You’re in charge here, no matter what I personally think about it. You don’t need to brief me on this. Why do it?”

“I disagree,” Webb says. “These guys are connected to TriHealth, which means they have access to MTHD tech. I’m going to need to put your people between them and the rest of the city. I won’t do that with you in the dark.”

“How do you know I’m not working with them?” Banks counters. “That statement the Senator just made makes it hard to trust anyone, assuming he’s right.” He shakes his head. “Which I am, I think. Damn it all.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re on the level,” Webb says. “If I weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing this. But we’re going to be completely sure of it in a few seconds.”

As if on cue, someone knocks on the MCV door. It opens before either of them have a chance to react, and a tall, slim black man dressed in a three-piece black suit and wearing sunglasses steps up and in, letting the door shut behind him.

“Hello Captain Banks,” the man says. “My name is Special Agent Phillip Henry. Before this goes any further I’m going to need to ask you two questions.”


  1. At last! Muchas gracias. Read the whole thing, mind is thoroughly blown.

    You may wish to fix the typo at paragraph 6, first line. The “f” is missing from Red Shift’s name.

  2. Typo immune to spell check, part 6, paragraph 91, sentence 3. Did you mean, “The small one jumps to his feet” rather than “his feat”?

  3. Re-reading part two, section where the scene shifts to Jenny: second paragraph refers to Liberty as Toby’s grandfather, third paragraph refers to Liberty as “his great-grandfather.” In context, the intent of the second reference could have been “his grandfather” again or “her (Jenny’s) great-grandfather”.

  4. Great to have you back in the harness – so to speak.
    Minor typo: Part Two, Para 5: a ‘d’ is missing in: one arm hangs limply by his sie as the empty sleeve…

  5. Part two, second section (Jenny), second paragraph, last sentence, linguistic quibble: “At the moment he’s laying down” should be “At the moment he’s lying down”. It may be said that in the previous episode when David moved Toby after casting his protective spell, he laid Toby down, but now Toby is lying down. For edification and amusement, you may wish to go to, enter the word “lay” in the definition blank and hit enter, then scroll down to the “Lay vs. Lie” video and enjoy.

  6. Part 9, paragraph beginning “He can see the Chairman”, last sentence: Richter is misspelled “Reichter”. Possibly Freudian slip?

  7. Part 10, first paragraph, second sentence, first word should not contain the apostrophe. (Autocorrect does that to me sometimes, substituting the contraction for the possessive pronoun. Bad autocorrect!)

  8. Part 22:
    – second paragraph, first sentence speaks of “dimly lit florescent lights” but I think you meant “fluorescent” since the dictionary says “florescent” means “flourishing”.
    – fourth paragraph from the end, beginning “There is a low hum”, another “it’s” that should be “its”.

    I just finished reading an excellent and enthralling tale (obviously shaving your head did nothing to kerb your style – I was worried a la Samson and Delilah that you might lose your talent).
    Anyhow, the following typos, misspelling(s), and possible misunderstandings, by me, of your choice of words/phrases to this left-pondian, who only lived in the US for 21 years, triggered my antenna – but the story demanded that I keep reading. This resulted in a quick copy and paste (without commentary) and then a quick insert of the Part Number (so that you have a vague clue where to look).

    Part Seven: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein’s Suite

    He wouldn’t be the first to abandon a good team in favor of a promising promotion. To become “a suit,” as Billy would to say.

    Part Eight: New York City, Downtown

    David grins in spite of himself. “Because it’s better ‘Doctor Weird, Warlock Supreme.’”

    Part Fourteen: Haruspex Analytics

    Shewatches, calm and remote, and waits.

    She at Justin. Without hesitation, he bolts toward the still glowing tear.

    Part Eighteen: Haruspex Analytics, Ground Floor Lobby

    The torso comes together in a rough outline, and in a matter of seconds he can the pieces of rock fuse together as the golem begins to reform.

    Blue light flares up again, but it’s different this time. It flickers erratically, like a fluorescent light just before it does.

    Part Nineteen: Haruspex Analytics, Upper Floors

    Street Ronin crouches on the landing tile, his rifle trained on the closed door

    Part Twenty Two: Manhattan, Alpha Checkpoint MCV

    “That’s right,” the Senator’s image says. “Remember when I said the first virus—the that didn’t kill

    It’s bad, Captain. Bad in way that, historically, cuts across old boundaries. . . . .. We’re talking genetic plague, Captian.”

    Part Twenty Seven: Metamorphosis

    As the wind rises, so dow the sound, the thummm growing louder, and behind it a second sound.

    Part Twenty Nine: Downtown Manhattan

    Para 2: It can’t move beyond this spot because the buildings surrounding it are too fall.

    Alishia flies closer to the golem, keying up a volley of anti-vehicle missles

    Part Thirty One: Ingress

    No games, Sky Commando. We have a way to take out thegolem.

    Part Thirty Three: Haruspex Analytics Golem, The Labyrinth

    he knocks a new hole in the side dof the building and jumps.

    Part Thirty Four: Aftermath

    David starts looking through the crowd. “Now we round everyone up and go back to the Nautillus.


  10. Back again. Just checked the amendment that you made re. Part Nineteen (which is the deja vu all over again and again) and “on the landing tile” appears at least 5 more times – thanks be to Ctrl-F.

  11. Sorry, my misunderstanding, my septuagenarian vocabulary didn’t extend to ‘landing tile’ as a thing, but showed me the error of my ways – since multiple peoples being advertizing them are.

  12. part ten

    not fighting against the other awareness, but fusing to cede what remains of his own identity.

    refusing to cede?

  13. part seventeen

    She twists his arm, and the he cries out in pain as the carbine clatters to the floor.

    then he tries?

  14. part 24 “Where are these thingscoming from?” Jenny keeps

    not sure if missing a space?

  15. And now to see where Regiment was during all this kerfuffle…
    Thanks for coming back!

  16. Part 22, paragraph 43: “Sky Commander” should probably be “Sky Commando” unless the point is that Captain Banks (understandably) is so badly shaken he isn’t even using Sgt. Webb’s proper title. He gets it right two paragraphs later.

    Part 22, paragraphs 39 and 41: not sure about this. 39 refers to “the worst of the group” as a tossup between Crossfire and Overmind. In 41, Sky Commando tells Captain Banks that Haruspex is “much worse than either of those groups could hope to be”, where “either of those groups” seems to be a reference back to Crossfire and Overmind. Am I misreading this, or is she calling Overmind a group?

  17. One of those typos that spellcheck will never catch: Part 26, paragraph 1, last sentence: “standing father back”: s/father/farther.

  18. Part 27, paragraph 15, sentence 4: the word “shifts” is missing an “f”.

  19. Part 29:
    Paragraph 33:
    – sentence 5: need a space here: durabilityconverging. “durability” is in italics in the actual text.
    – next to last sentence: “it’s attention” should be “its attention”.
    Paragraph 44, next to last sentence: “one a little to low” “to” needs another “o”.
    Paragraph 48, last sentence: “She adjusts her position, putting as much of the base of her cable between herself and the ones closing in.” “as much” seems to want another “as” but I’m not sure exactly what you want here.

  20. Part 30:
    Paragraph 11, first sentence, after the second dash: “is throws it”: s/is/it
    Paragraph 31: last sentence: “keeping out of site” out of “sight”?

  21. Beautiful, beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Partway through Part Seventeen there appears to be some paragraph-level cleanup needed at the point where the Chairman nearly comes in to check on Artemis, but then changes his mind. Two versions of the same passage? –>

    “Our guest…” Suddenly the Chairman sounds weary. He sighs. “The resources we will need to expend to keep him in check will be… prohibitive. I fear we will be forced to leave him behind.” Phyllis is surprised by the amount of regret in the Chairman’s voice. Who is he talking about?

    “I should, at least, say farewell…”

    Footsteps close in on the door, and when the door handle begins to turn her heart nearly stops. But it stops, then returns to its original position as the hand on the other side lets go.

    “No,” the Chairman says. “We don’t have the time. It galls me to leave him behind

    Ah. Yes.” The Chairman hmmms thoughtfully. “I fear we won’t be able to take him with us. The resources we’d need to expend to keep him in check are best used on other things. Come, the door is here.”

    The group comes to a stop, and for a terror-filled moment Phyllis is convinced they’ve stopped in front of her door. Seconds pass, then something clicks on the other side of the hall, and the footsteps move off carpet, onto stone. The door clicks a second time as it swings shut. The hallway is silent once again.

  22. @cuatroojos: thanks for the extra updates. They’re all fixed. Sidenote: the issue with the two words being crammed together without a space between them is an oddity because it never shows up in my original text — it’s a result of dumping the text into WordPress. So far I haven’t figured out what it is that’s making WordPress remove the spaces. I assume it isn’t random, though it looks that way to me.

    @Christopher Krebs: aaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaaa fixed now. 😀

  23. You’ve done a terrific job keeping so many different narrative strands going without getting all tangled. Bravo.

    Part Twenty-Eight, paragraph 4, another sentence-level blip: “He grimaces, thrusting his right hand left arm and his side.”

  24. Part 17, third-to-last paragraph, last sentence: “careless” needs to be in its adverbial form, “carelessly”.

  25. Part 6:
    – Paragraph 73 begins “Int he”; “In the”?
    – Paragraph 93, beginning “David doesn’t reply”: in the second sentence, “exends” looks like it wants to be “extends”.
    – Paragraph 11, first sentence, “more than match”, maybe “more than a match”?

  26. > It was literally SURROUNDED by other instances of the word spelled correctly. Sigh.
    If your fingers are anything like mine, they don’t *care* how many times you have spelled a given word correctly. And I echo your Sigh.

  27. C.B., Thanks so much for this! Amazing!

    It’s been so long since 35 (and 35 made no sense to me at the time!), that I just bit the bullet and reread from the beginning, and then crashed straight through 36. Wow. Really well done – I can see where the breaks would be for 36a, b, and c if you could break from “year 3”, but boy does it work as a whole.

    I actually thought it would be the complete wrapup, since it took that long to “pull in all the loose ends and stories”. But no – it’s just the cliffhanger to Year 4, “on the clock” as it were. Can’t complain about that!

    Since I did do a compleat runthrough (spelling intended), I then did it again, trying to pay attention to blips and continuity issues. I have a bunch of notes (some on 36 might already be noted here), plus a Liberty Family Tree – what’s the best way to get them to you, should you want them? I could post it here or the forums, but it is the size of one of your smaller chapters; plus some of the questions are “I could very easily be wrong here, having not understood context”, so, not sure you want those ideas that public.

    Note: the email registered with my account is live and commonly read, if you don’t want to put anything out in the open yourself!

    Also note: there were threads running through the story that I only saw on the “editing runthrough” – and I’ve read (what was, at the time) the whole story, I think 5 times now. Love the world and character-building that has clearly always been there, but I haven’t noticed happening in serial form.

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