The Legion Encounters -
An Unexpected Stop
A Legion of Lawndale Heroes 'Mini' by Brother Grimace
(NOTE: This fic is part of the 'Judith Strikes!' shared-world series.)
Praemonitus, praemunitus ('Forewarned is forearmed')
-The DELPHI motto
The young woman known as Judith fell away from the door, the wicked-looking blade in her right hand falling free as she gagged upon the thick cloud of metallic-gray gas that enveloped her head.
Before she could react, the room was filled with light and sound.
She screamed as she felt bolts of electricity strike her from at least six different directions – and choked as even more of the gas filled her mouth and nostrils.
Judith lost control, her knees unlocking; only strong hands kept her from dropping to the floor as a hissing sound caused her cloak to be stripped from her-
"Hello, little girl. Why didn't you let us know that you'd be back in the neighborhood?"
Judith, lying on a floor, fought for her breath. "I'm certain that we could have scared up a pizza and some Ultra-Cola for you," the strangely echoing voice of a woman continued to speak, as Judith fought to regain her bearings. "After all, isn't that what all of you 'Darias' seem to love for snacking?"
"Don't... call me... that," the young woman coughed, trying to rise to her feet. "My name... is Judith..."
"We know," another echoing female voice rang out – this one more forceful and commanding; Judith was aware enough to hear the sounds of several people walking into the room. "Did you really think we would forget you, Miss Morgendorffer?"
Her eyes finally clearing, Judith found herself in a large room, one the size of a gymnasium and painted entirely white - except for two areas.
The first area (at the far end of the room) appeared to be a sleeping area painted in neutral colors, equipped with a king-sized bed, a pair of large, oversized chairs, a couch and a coffee table; the other (at the opposite end of the area) was a small mini-gym, painted at the sleeping area, and equipped with several exercise machines – treadmill, stationary bike and Bow-Flex among them.
"Who the hell are you?" Judith growled, turning to see her captors – several men and women, all dressed in business suits of purest white. "Where the hell am I? This isn't where I'm supposed to be!"
"It's just as I told you earlier, Director," one of the women – a tiny, shapely woman with a waist-long mane of straightened brown hair – to the tall, regal African-American woman who stood at the front of the group. "No recollection of an earlier incursion. Between this, the fact that we were able to separate her from the artifact and the color of her cloak-"
"This is an alternate-reality counterpart to the one we encountered before," the African-American woman said, looking Judith over. "Admiral – you have my thanks. Any resources or personnel that your operation may need in the immediate future will be provided at your request."
A stream of cursing flowed from Judith as she took in the sight of the snug white bodysuit that she wore in the reflection of the large monitor built into the wall in front of the couch – and she shrieked in shock, disbelief and barely controlled portions of rage and fear as she realized that her cloak – and her locket - were gone.
"Where the fuck's my locket?" she screamed, loud enough to be heard perfectly throughout the entire area. "It's mine! Give it back to me! Give it back!"
As she charged, screaming, at her captors – Judith found herself slowing to a stop as she encountered a substance in the air around her that first felt like an aerosol spray, but quickly took on the consistency of the hardest rubber, holding her fast in mid-stride barely three feet from the group.
Snarling with frustration, Judith saw a short, fifty-something man in the dress-whites of a two-star U.S. Navy admiral moving through the group of white suits to stand beside the African-American woman. "Thank you, Director," Admiral Al Calavicci said. "I'm just glad that we happened to have exactly what you needed to locate and detain this–"
The Admiral nodded in Judith's direction. "Is she to be classified as an EOE, SPB, or as an HST?"
"She doesn't appear to have demonstrated any extant metahumans talents, aside from possessing control over her garment that appears to be on the level of a low-level psionic rapport that may also tap into an as-yet unrealized psychokinetic talent," the brown-haired woman spoke up. "However, with what we saw of the other Judith – as well as with the reports we've received – I'm given to believe that the garment actually possesses a low-level of self-awareness. It was most likely developed some form of residual psionic imprinting from the subject – especially considering that she has been able to have the garment operate on its own and commit homicide, along with other criminal and mundane activities."
Judith seethed as she grasped at her neck in vain for her missing locket, and realized that the people were pointedly ignoring her as they spoke. "You're saying that the damned cloak was – is – a Horcrux, Doctor Richmond?" the Director asked, looking from Judith to the woman.
"We added a higher level of Salazarium to the containment mist when we hit her – with the constant exposure to chronal and inter-dimensional energies that she's undergone over the years, there's no telling what sort of chromosomal damage or mutagenic potentials exist in her," Lori Richmond replied. "Not taking any chances, after Baltimore."
Lori tapped away at her Blackberry. "We've got teams from Fast Forward coming in tomorrow morning to begin full physical, psych and SPB workups on the subject," she continued. "Also, the Uatu unit that collaborated with Dr. Beckett to realign the Accelerator will be reinforced in about four hours with a full crew from Missouri."
"Good," the Director spoke. "Tell Dr. Beckett and the Uatu project head that I want a full briefing on possible future re-routing and containment of other hostile EOE's replicating this subject's plans – and on how fast that she can get the other Holding Areas spun up to DELPHI standards."
"With the funding you've given us access to, Paula – the numbers don't matter," the Admiral said. "You send them our way – we'll bag 'em and tag 'em."
The Director nodded in the Admiral's direction. "Good to know, Al," she replied. "As of right now, Project Quantum Leap is operating on DELPHI's Crimson Access protocols. If you need SHARD Rangers for additional security, you're free to request them, as well."
"Who the fuck are you looking at?" Judith screamed, beyond furious as Doctor Paula Trainor - the Director of DELPHI – tool a slow, casual walk around the now-immobile young woman, who seemed to hang in the air like an open-air work of performance art. "What – looking for a nice new bowl of clam chowder? I might swing that way, but not for an old, dried-up piece like you-"
Judith looked directly into Paula's eyes – and stopped talking at once.
"No, go ahead – get it all out of your system," Paula said, in a calm manner that froze Judith's blood. "Sooner than you realize, Miss Morgendorffer, we're going to have spirited, intelligent discussions, bereft of the cursing you seem to enjoy. After some time here, you'll remember, as most intelligent persons do, that we have better ways of expressing ourselves."
"YOU CAN'T KEEP ME HERE!" Judith screamed. "LET ME GO!"
"You poor child," Paula said, a touch of actual pity in her voice. "Because of your actions in this reality and your knowing and willful transportation into this reality of an artifact capable of potentially unsanctioned metahuman augmentation, I am informing you that under the provisions of Article Twenty-Five of the Bowman Metahuman and Extraterrestrial Affairs Act of 1982 – you have been declared a ward of the Federal Government of the United States of America."
Judith's eyes narrowed as Paula continued. "Because of your new legal status, you have been remanded to the appropriate authorities who have been charged with physical custody - until such time as you are no longer considered a danger to yourself, or to the society in which it is hoped you will be able to re-enter one day."
"You can't do this to me!" Judith screamed, her rage – and the sudden blossom of absolute fear in her eyes – now approaching the event horizon upon which madness waited. "You can't-!"
"Until I saw the outfit you wore – I would have agreed with you," Paula told her. "The problem is – your cloak is blue."
The response Judith made came out like an explosion of fury. "What the fuck does THAT have to do with anything?"
"What that means, Miss Morgendorffer, is that when the confinement mist dissolves, you should consider getting some rest," Paula said. "Doctor Richmond will brief you on your daily activities and meal schedule, and I've authorized an extra ninety minutes of open-air privileges per day for you as you settle in. I've been told that there's an excellent and varied selection of meals available, and they also have a wide selection of video materials for you to view."
"Hello, Miss Morgendorffer," Lori said, coming up to Judith as Paula turned away. "I'm Doctor Richmond. I'm a Special Activities Assistant to the Director, and I'll be your point of contact with Director Trainor. I'll also be the lead evaluator on your team as you undergo your orientation and familiarization phases here at this facility. I want you to understand that even though it may not seem like it now – we want to help you."
"Fuck you!" Judith screeched, now unable to even move her head; her eyes were locked on the receding sight of Paula, the Admiral, and the others walking away from her towards the exit, with Lori's voice becoming a droning constant in her ears as she felt a numbing, calming sensation begin to move across every single inch of her body, like warm, stroking fingers... "Fuck you! Fuck you...!"
The anger she felt no longer expressible in an outward manner, Judith could not – she refused to even try – to focus on Lori's voice as the doors to the Holding Area closed behind.
Trapped like a fly in amber by the containment mist, Judith tried one more time to move or even generate the will to scream one more time.
The calming agent in the formula of the mist had done its job all too well. The anger was gone, leaving a chasm deep and unseen within Judith.
Her cloak – gone. The locket – gone.
What did she mean? Judith thought. 'My cloak is blue?' What does that mean?
Trapped, here, by those DELPHI fools – why didn't it work? It worked flawlessly everywhere else, in every reality – why didn't it work here? How did I come out here – How did they take my cloak from me?
Where is my cloak? Wherever you are, please, please, don't be afraid – I'll find you, I promise. I promise I'll find you.
Trapped here – it's not fair. I had a destiny. I'm supposed to have a destiny! How can they do this to me? It's not supposed to be this way!
Shame, frustration and a sweeping wave of quiet desperation all evaporated into that chasm within Judith, leaving only a flickering flame of despair visible in her eyes.
Lori, watching, stopped speaking as the light began to leave Judith's eyes – and the first tears appeared at the corners, falling away only to lose momentum and pool in different patches on the lower half of the young woman's face.
"I'll come back in an hour," she said – kindly enough so that she probably did feel the sympathy in her voice. "You know, someday – this will be better for you."
She started away, the soft, lost sounds of Judith's weeping following her out of the area.