Jason remained silent, trusting Hector to answer. He knew the other young man had a better grasp of strategy than him, as well as a broader knowledge base. It was also likely he was more familiar with the Citadel’s field protocols.
“Sir, you told us to stay out of the fight unless you lost or civilians were in danger. You weren’t losing but it looked like it was going to go on for a bit. I figured ending it sooner was safer for everyone. Besides, I had authorization from Analysis.”
Still prone, Operative Grave grunted before replying. “Hm. You killed the guy. Obviously, it worked out but what made you so sure you had the right person?”
“Well, Reaper- I mean the proxy one, moved to block your blood. I figured that was pretty conclusive but I thought he was probably the guy before that.”
“Again, why? I only used the blood test because Analysis told me to. Turning into a metal skeleton wouldn’t even make my top ten as far as weird empowerments go. And besides that, how did you contact Analysis? This is your first day in town and I know I haven’t put you into the system yet.”
Hector rubbed the back of his head as he mumbled his reply. Jason was unable to hear him clearly but, despite being further away and the presumable distraction of his recent bisection, Grave seemed able to understand him. At least, so Jason assumed by his response. His eyebrows rose, then narrowed as he spoke into his communicator.
“Analysis, what’s your name?”
Jason could not hear the reply well enough to understand it but he did recognize the voice. He found himself smiling in amusement. Such spontaneous shows of emotion were becoming more common for him but he still found them at least a little surprising.
Grave sighed and sat up, one arm pressed against himself, along the cut.
“Goddamit. So you’re telling me that not only are you gonna be shadowing me, you’re also providing analysis for me?”
Several of the Hectors nodded.
“And I suppose you’ll be doing the same for yourself and Grim too?”
This time, only the foremost Hector nodded.
“Okay, Hive, fine. I don’t like it but I trust the directors know what they’re doing.” He turned his head to face Jason. “And you, you killed a man on his word. Why?”
Jason considered a moment, then answered. “Hector told me he suspected the Reaper you were fighting was a decoy. We encountered a similar situation during one of our training exercises.”
“That was enough for you? Did you, yourself, suspect the target was the real Reaper?”
“Then again, why were you willing to kill someone on nothing more than Hive’s word?”
“I trust Hector’s judgment more than my own, sir.”
Robert Grave did not reply for a moment. Then he smiled and said, “Okay, I can work with that.”
“What now, sir?” One of the Hectors asked.
Grave waved at one of the nearby police officers, who threw him… a roll of duct tape?
“Well, your tour got interrupted so I suppose we’ll just pick up where we left off.” He stripped off the remains of his shirt and began wrapping the tape around his chest. “This is City Hall. Aside from its obvious importance as a city center it’s also the second or third most common site for challenges.”
Jason noticed a large number of scars on the man’s chest and sides, great and small. There were relatively few on his back and most of them lined up with larger ones on his front, impalements or the like. He decided that this was a man who was accustomed to facing his opponents head on.
“Soon as I’m done patching myself up we’ll clear out so they can clean up the area.” Graves said, using his head to gesture towards a number of individuals who had just arrived and were standing off to the side with the police officers. They wore standard hazmat suits and carried-
“Are those flamethrowers?” Jason asked without considering the question beforehand.
Grave nodded. “Yep, they’ll hose down the whole area. Can’t risk someone stepping on a leftover drop of blood or something.”
Jason blinked. So that was what ‘shock’ felt like.
“We’ll head over to Maricopa next. It’s the biggest hospital left in the city so they would’ve been included anyway. I’ll get myself patched up with a bit more…” he indicated his tape covered chest with one hand while he used his teeth to separate the tape’s edge from the roll, “let’s say professionalism. While I’m doing that, there’s a… special section of the hospital that you need to see. I should be able to get you an introduction and a walkthrough without any trouble.”
Jason nodded to indicate his understanding and willingness to comply. One of the Hectors, he thought it was the original, spoke up.
“Um, sir? I didn’t plan on making more of me originally but I wanted the extra perspectives during the fight. As long as I’m here, do you mind if the rest of me go run a few errands while one of me stays with you?”
Grave sighed and his face contorted oddly. “No, that’s fine I suppose. Getting housing for you’s gonna be a pain, isn’t it?”
“Umm…” Hector spoke slowly, “not as such, sir, no. Me and Jason were planning to room together and he can help out with that. Also, I was planning on picking up a few civilian jobs in town to help out with any extra expenses we generate.” Grave’s face retained its odd configuration -possibly ‘irritation?- as he started to respond, only to be cut off by Hector. “It’s authorized sir.”
“By someone other than yourself?”
All of the Hectors present nodded.
“Fine, good enough I suppose. Go nuts.” Grave did not say anything else for a moment then spoke again, very quietly. “Keep this up and I’m either gonna love you or murder you.”
Jason was not certain he was supposed to have heard that.