It started with a pain in his chest.
Rob knew his condition, how long it had been since he’d last… maintained it. He knew what the sensation meant. After working with Hector and Jason for a time, he was certain that they could handle the city without him, certainly for a twelve hour period.
Absently, he rubbed at his wrist. His body didn’t heal as fast as a real regenerator but it did a good enough job that he usually wound up without a lasting mark from most injuries. Putting himself back together, or having the hospital do it, just sped up the process. Slitting his wrists every day for the last year had been enough to bypass that, leaving a series of heavy scars on the end of each arm.
Rob grinned as the pain returned an his hand drifted up from his wrist to rest against his chest.
Fondling himself as he walked down the hall wouldn’t have been enough to get so much as a raised eyebrow in a normal Citadel facility. Support personnel were trained to deal with the… eccentricities that cropped up amongst some Empowered. In Phoenix, where Robert Grave had been the sole operative for so long, Support roles were filled by a combination of municipal employees, mostly police. Every one of those police officers was staring at Grave as he passed them in the hall.
Rob giggled with anticipation.
Come to think of it, that might have had more to do with the stares than anything else he was doing. He’d worked closely enough with the locals that they’d formed certain opinions about him. Jason had fit right in with their preconceptions, sober, implacable and unhesitating when it came to the use of lethal force. Rob had been concerned that Hector might have been a problem. A soldier on every street corner had certain unfortunate connotations and, while the young operative might not have been exactly that, he was fairly close.
He turned the corner and entered the newly designated Analysis room.
It had started as a standard conference room, a large table, some whiteboards, nothing special. All of that was still there, just changed. The table was covered in a full map of the city, studded with pins and draped in strings. He had no clue what they were meant to represent but- no, no he did know at least one thing. Those black pins were in the right places. They must be his ‘resources.’ Hm, how had Hector known the right positioning? Even Rob would’ve had trouble placing them all so well?
The white boards were covered in photos and index cards, scribbles of data everywhere. He counted at least two dozen Hectors and half that many civilians, a mix of law enforcement and municipal. That’s what had counteracted the ‘occupying army’ image so well. Hector had gone out of his way to work with people. He didn’t have law enforcement powers, not unless someone involved was Empowered or the cops requested his assistance, but he was perfectly capable of intervening if he witnessed a crime or reporting any information he happened to come across.
Add the hundreds of arrests, meaningful ones, that had happened only because of his help, the way he was always on hand to defuse the low end Empowered conflicts that were such a nightmare for regular police and that Rob had had to leave to them anyway far to often, the who-knew-how-many regular jobs he was working for a fair wage and the collection of the city’s projects that had been sitting idle because they didn’t have enough of a workforce to get them off the ground… Hector was damned popular these days.
He stepped aside to let a young woman with a heavily bandaged arm in a sling enter, watched as she approached a Hector who split off to have a quiet conversation in the corner. Something about her tickled his memory but he couldn’t think what, dismissed the thought when a uniformed Lieutenant entered the room. Rob recognized the guy, one of the men associated with SWAT, the one most likely to request Citadel assistance when they had a nasty situation.
A month ago, that would have meant Rob would have a job to do. Now, it meant Hector adjusted the position of several red pins on the table map and added quite a few more. He tapped the nearest Hector on the shoulder, drawing his attention. Sure, Rob could’ve just done this over the com system, arguably should’ve to put it in Analysis records, but he liked the personal touch.
“Operative Hive, I’m going off duty for the next twelve hours. Contact me if you need me.” he said.
The young man nodded and grinned that cocky grin he wore so often. He answered through Rob’s earpiece rather than speaking. “Analysis acknowledges, Operative Grave, you are off duty as of fifteen hundred hours.”
This time the pain wasn’t in his chest; it spread throughout his entire body. Burning, tingling, it felt wonderful. The others had just been tissue… waking up, for lack of a better term. This? This was the first heartbeat Rob had felt in longer than he could remember. He laughed, a pure, joyful sound that drew looks of confused horror from all the locals that had worked with him before. His dead state wasn’t quite as emotionless as Jason, more a matter of lacking the physical accompaniments to his feelings than anything else, but it was still a lot more reserved than this.
He turned to go, his stomach rumbling with the beginnings of hunger. If Rob hurried, he might have time for a steak before he slept like the dead.