The Hollow Half – Chapter 6

“Jin! Are you ok?” my brother’s very worried voice came to me.

I opened my eyes. I was laying on a cot in an unfamiliar room.

In the police station.

Couldn’t tell how I knew that though.

My thoughts were a jumble.

Someone else was there. Someones.

Desk clerk. Seen everything. I’m nothing new. Beat cop with first aid training behind him. Wonders if I’m on drugs. Not. Maybe should be. Wonders if I’m a supervillain. Not. Maybe crazy?

I looked at James and saw a mask. No, that was James. No mask.

“Give her a moment.” the medical cop said. “She’s probably little disoriented.”

He was at my side, checking my eyes.

“Doesn’t look like a concussion.” Minor meta-human power. Could have been a doctor, but his Dad was a cop, so he is too. “Any problem with your vision?”

“No. I’m ok. Just…how did I get here?” I asked. They’d brought me here when I passed out. We’d been at the check in desk and I’d collapsed and the glass doors had shattered. They thought I’d been hit by whatever had broken the doors. James had freaked out thinking I’d been shot, but there’d been no blood.

“We carried you. How are you feeling?” James asked still looking pretty worried.

“Like I passed out for no good reason.” I smiled, masking the cold fear that was growing in me.

I’d never left the police station. But I knew I had. I knew Way and her beast, Captain Rumbeard and the Star Runner were real. My memories of them were as crystal clear as the room around me.

The Sun Runner had been from a dream though. It couldn’t be real.

This was the second time I’d “woken up” from something that seemed perfectly real to something else that seemed perfectly real except this time it was worse. Waking up at the library had been weird, I’d been unsure of what was going on but I’d woken up still feeling like me. Still feeling normal.

This time I wasn’t normal. Not normal for me, not normal for anyone. The meta-awareness hadn’t gone away this time. Maybe my mind was shattering further each time?

“Can any of you hear me?” I thought to the three guys in the room with me, looking them each in the eyes briefly.

No answer.

“I’ll get her something to drink.” the medical cop said to James and the desk clerk before exiting. Getting away from the druggie supervillain before she exploded? No, just getting some apple juice to help with my blood sugar.

“Damn Jin, you scared the hell out of me.”

“Sorry. What happened? I feel like someone hit me with a bat.” I complained, rubbing the back of my head for emphasis. It was a little sore but not as bad as I was making it out. I didn’t want anyone to press me for explanations yet so I went for the sympathy card.

“Some nut shot the bullet proof doors we were near. I guess it startled you enough that you tripped over backwards and clocked your head on the counter.” James explained.

“Don’t worry. Some clowns or another’s always looking to get a rise out of us. We replace that thing about twice a month.” the desk clerk said to reassure me. He didn’t want me to worry that whoever did it was targeting us, or me specifically. It was a lie though. They hadn’t replaced the doors in six months and the timing was too coincidental. He figured whoever did it was after me but didn’t want to risk entering a police station. I’d be safe as long as I was here, in his estimation at least.

They both remembered the events wrong too. I’d dropped first, just a split second before the doors shattered. I’d been unconscious before I hit the ground. I hadn’t felt the impact at all. Or seen James run to the door to see who it was. I hadn’t watched him whirl around when he saw that no one was there and notice me sprawled at the bottom of the desk. I couldn’t have seen that, but it was clear as day in my minds eye.

I felt along my arms and back.

“Hurt anywhere else?” James asked.

“No…no I think I’m ok. Just the bump on the head.” I hadn’t been looking for bruises. I’d been looking for burns. My memories were impossible and reality didn’t match my experience. I was losing it. Or I’d lost it already.

I should have felt happy that I was still around to lose my mind at all though I supposed. The golden bolts had incinerated me. I couldn’t sense Way anymore, but I knew what my last moment had to have looked like to her. Ashes floating to earth.

I poked those memories, expecting terror and desperation and whatever else had been there to come flooding back. The emotions were there but only as a distant echo. Like a fading dream.

The medical cop came back in with the apple juice and a plastic cup.

“Thanks.” I offered in exchange for the cupful of the juice. I sipped it slowly while I tried to put my mind back together.

“How’s she doing?” Officer Smalls asked as he appeared in the doorway.

“She’ll be fine. Just a bit of a scare and a bump on the head. Damn reception desk might as well be made of concrete.” the desk clerk replied.

“Yeah, I’ll be ok.” I agreed.

“Mind if I take your brother away for a minute?” Smalls asked. He needed to know how I was going to react their interrogation and he knew he could count on James to give him the straight scoop. Whatever answer James gave they’d still have to question me though.

“Yeah, no problem. I’m fine.” I told them both. When my words didn’t ease the worried look in Jame’s eyes I raised my apple juice cup and took another sip.

See, the gesture said, just need to refuel, I’m not going to fall to pieces.

“I need to get back to the desk. Gonna be people coming for the door. Can you stay here with her until they come back?” the desk clerk asked the medical cop, gesturing to the departing Officer Smalls and James.

“Sure. Beats doing paperwork!” the beat cop joked. I didn’t seem dangerous but he was still on edge. Too tough to show it though. The guys wouldn’t let him live it down if a puny little, normal, girl like me freaked him out.

I took another sip of juice and retreated into my thoughts.

Was I still normal? Was I still sane? The whole chase and flight and death, had that all been head trauma? That didn’t explain Pen. And it didn’t explain how I knew the things I did.

A complete psychotic break? Sure, maybe. Something the Shadow Court did to me? I felt a ping when that thought crossed my mind. It wasn’t true, but it’s what the cops would come up with as a working theory if I told them anything about what I’d seen.

I probed that. How did I know it wasn’t true? I mean, if the Shadow Court had messed with my mind, wouldn’t they have programmed me to disbelieve it too?

Yes they would, and no they hadn’t. How could I know? Because they never would have given me a memory that made them seem weak or frightened. Their power came from fear, specifically the fear children have of creatures like them. Seeing a Shadow Courtier destroyed like I had? That would have shattered any binding they’d put on me.

Of course my only source for that knowledge was my crazy meta-awareness, which could again be a product of the Shadow Court.  So I couldn’t trust it. I couldn’t trust anything. If I wasn’t crazy before, I was going to be soon.

I took another sip of the juice and fought to keep my inner turmoil off my face. I wanted to break down and cry, or scream, or just laugh hysterically but that wasn’t going to help.

“Hey, Simmons, get your gear. We just got another Class 1” an older officer said as he paused at the door to the room.

A Class 1 call meant a metahuman incident. I knew that one from being a book head. No meta-awareness needed.

“Another one? Damn tonight’s a busy one. What happened?” Simmons, the medical cop who’d been sitting with me asked.

“Somebody blew up half of the old factories out in South End. Then they crashed a boat into one of them!” Waid, the older officer explained. He’d seen worse, but not often and he’d hated every call like that he’d ever gotten.

Wait…a boat?

“Is anybody there?” I asked.

“Yeah, Heartbeat’s already on scene. She’s the one who called it in.” Waid explained. He wasn’t all that eager to leave so answering the question didn’t bother him.

“How do you crash boat into a building? Some ‘roid monkey toss a canoe through a window or something?” Simmons asked.

“Ain’t a canoe. Heartbeat said it was a Galleon. One of them big sail boat things.”

I grabbed the edge of the cot before I fell out of it.

“Woah, you ok?” Simmons asked.

“Yeah. Just a little woozy still. Shouldn’t have tried to get up there.” I said. I hadn’t been trying to get up, but neither of them had been paying attention so it seemed plausible to them.

“You going to be ok? I can get someone else.” Simmons offered. He couldn’t really. The damage to the South End meant everyone was going to have a busy night.

“Yeah. I’ll just rest here and wait for James and Officer Smalls to get back. No problem at all!” I wanted to jump to my feet and bounce around the room like a ping pong ball.

I wasn’t crazy! It was all real! I…I was in mortal peril still.

That calmed me down.

I was in mortal peril, but apparently being burned alive hadn’t been enough to actually kill me. That was good. I could work with that.

Maybe I was invulnerable? Not something I was eager to test and it wouldn’t fit what I’d experienced. It was something stranger than that. My meta-awareness wasn’t filling in the details either. Apparently I wasn’t omniscient in any useful ways. Just in odd ones.

What I needed was to talk to someone who knew what was going on. Pen. I needed to talk to Pen again.

“Hey! Pen! Come on, come out and talk to me.” I thought, really really loudly.

No answer.

Instead, James returned with Officer Smalls. I put on my best face. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t a delicate flower. They didn’t need to worry about me.

“They still need to question us Jin. Think you’re up for that?” James asked.

“No problem. What about the boat though? Don’t you need to check that out?” I asked Officer Smalls.

“Boat?” James looked at Smalls. For a second I wondered if I’d dreamed up the cops too. That’s how far off balance the night had left me.

“Yeah, we had another call. We’ve already got units on the scene.” Smalls informed James. Specifically James. Huh. That was odd.

“Ok.” James answered simply.

“If you’ll follow me then Miss Smith.” Officer Biggs said.  He’d been waiting in the hallways behind Smalls.

I got out of the cot easily, since I wasn’t actually hurt, and followed Biggs out of the room. He turned away from the hallway that lead to the interrogation rooms. James wasn’t following me either.

“James?” I said, asking “aren’t you coming too?” silently.

“If you can handle it, I thought I’d go with Smalls to get the car. They’re short staffed and you know Dad needs it tomorrow.” he answered.

I turned the idea over. On the one hand I’d feel a lot better if I had someone I could trust at my side. On the other, James was probably safer being away from me at the moment. Whatever was happening had shattered bulletproof glass and then blown up a bunch of buildings.

What had happened to the police cruisers in the parking lot, I wondered idly? I’d seen the door destroyed by Way’s beast, but it had only been broken when I woke up. Maybe the police cruisers were in better shape too? For that matter maybe the factories were too? ‘Half the South End’ had to have been an overstatement of the damage that was done.

If I couldn’t find out tonight, there’d be reports online tomorrow, so I filed those questions away as ones to worry about later.

“That sounds good.” I told James, aware that I’d paused a worryingly long time before responding.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. C’mon, I’m in a police station, its not like the Big Bad Wolf is going to get me here or anything.” I flashed on the memory of Way’s beast coming through the door. Well, it had missed me. Somehow.

“Yeah, I know but it might take a while. You know, if they’re not done with the car yet.” James half stammered. Lied. By omission.

I tried to focus my awareness on what I was missing but I got nothing. Plain old intuition had no idea either. Whatever he was hiding didn’t concern me I guess.

“I’ll be fine. Go. Remember though, you’re the one who has to tell Dad about all this.” I joked, letting him see I was serious.

Officer Biggs led me upstairs rather than to the interrogation rooms. He paused at the door to a small conference room.

“Agent Haffrun, this the witness we spoke of, Jin Smith. Jin, this is Agent Haffrun of the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs. She’s been assigned to your case.” Biggs informed me.

My case?, I thought, Didn’t he mean ‘The Shadow Court Case’?

My meta-awareness filled in the answer. No, he meant “The Case of Jin Smith”. It was my case because Agent Haffrun was here for me. She knew I was a new metahuman. Which meant that the only question was whether she thought I was a superhero or a supervillain.

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