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Redshift has been tied to a chair before. That’s nothing new.

The new part is that not only had this guy managed to get a hit in, but instead of going at Redshift with fists or a weapon (both of which are also nothing new), he’d chosen a syringe and gone straight for Redshift’s neck.

Syringes are never good. Especially not when you’re shaking off grogginess in a dark room, tied to a chair, and your heart rate feels a lot slower than it should, and you’re not hungry at all, which is frankly worrying because Redshift is always hungry after any sort of physical exertion, or after just existing without eating for a while, or really at any time. It’s just a fact of life for him and has been ever since he got his powers.

So to be not hungry, to feel sluggish and tired while tied up in a strange room... that doesn’t fill him with confidence.

Still, maybe it can work out to be a good thing. Maybe he’s not hungry just because he’s not really awake yet. As long as everyone else stays away for a little while, Redshift can pull himself back together and start working on getting out of this situation.

“I wanted to fight you, you know,” a voice rumbles from behind him.

Redshift doesn’t bother trying to turn around. He’ll just embarrass himself. And when Steel Coyote is anywhere in the vicinity, it’s a very bad idea to do anything that doesn’t directly lead to either punching him in the eye or getting the hell out of there.

“They wouldn’t let me,” Steel Coyote continues. “Said I would probably beat you up too badly and then they wouldn’t get to test the serum. Of course, now that they have tested it, they still won’t let me fight you. Not that I’d want to, with you in that state.”

Redshift is very close to physically biting down on his tongue to keep from asking about things— who ‘they’ are, what the serum is, what state he’s in.

Maybe Steel Coyote notices that, because he chuckles before saying, “You haven’t noticed?”

Redshift still doesn’t say anything. As long as Steel Coyote is standing behind him, he’s going to keep not reacting, as best as he can. His mask will help with that, as long as he doesn’t say anything.

“You have, then. Huh. I wondered if it would feel different, not having your powers, but I guess that answers that.”

So that’s what’s wrong.

Redshift doesn’t give himself time to think about that, because he can hear that someone else has entered the room (also behind him). Their step sounds lighter than Steel Coyote’s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The steps continue, and Redshift sees a suit in his peripheral vision, and then the suit walks around in front of him and—

Um. That’s new.

“Hello,” the metal person says, although Redshift can’t even really figure out where their mouth is. “My name is Caesar.”

Like I care, Redshift thinks, but he doesn’t say it.

“I don’t want you getting the wrong impression,” Caesar continues smoothly. “We have nothing against you in particular. It’s just that you have a piece of information we want, and you’re an easy target.” If the metal face mask could smile, Redshift has no doubt it would, but he grits his teeth. If they want him mad, then he’ll refuse to get worked up. Not complying has always been one of his better developed skills.

Caesar holds out one metal hand, and Steel Coyote, also walking around to face Redshift, hands him a small gun. Small, but at this range, it’ll do damage that Redshift’s suit will only handle most of. So if they do shoot him, it’ll hurt like a bitch, and that’s assuming they don’t figure out how the locking mechanism on the seams and his helmet works.

The metal-on-metal clinks when Caesar takes the gun, and Redshift almost finds it amusing.

Steel Coyote steps away again, and Redshift has just enough time to think oh fuck when he feels a hand at his forehead, pulling his head back.

Caesar is examining the gun. “Yes, this will do nicely. It’s a shame nobody ever thinks to cover the underside of the jaw.”

Redshift feels, rather than sees, the safety on the gun click off, and he feels it when metal is pressed up just under his chin.

“Now,” Caesar says. “Tell me where I can find Blueshift.”

Redshift doesn’t say anything.

The silence lasts for one beat, then two, before Caesar chuckles and says, “Bold. Most supers aren’t that brave once their powers are gone. Put a gun up to their head and they’ll tell you anything. I can see we’ll have to do a bit more with you. Congratulations.”

Redshift still doesn’t say anything, and the pressure from the gun digs in a little more.

“I’ll ask one more time before things begin to get complicated. Where is Blueshift?”

That’s when the room explodes in a burst of green that has Redshift wondering if whatever they gave him fucked up his sight too, or maybe he just got shot in the head and this is his brain deciding to make things weird before shutting off.

It’s the heat and the impact that convinces him that even if that’s what’s happening, he should at least seize the opportunity to get the fuck out of here.

Steel Coyote doesn’t wear eye protection, and if the explosion was bright and weird from behind Redshift’s mask, it was probably worse for him, as evidenced by the pressure on his forehead lightening up, which means he can move his head forward, which means he can force Caesar’s gun down so it’s pointing at his neck instead of under his chin, which will still hurt like a bitch but at least it’ll hit his bulletproof clothing, rather than unprotected skin.

His restraints are tight, zip ties biting into his wrists and ankles, but if he can just be a little faster than Caesar and Steel Coyote, he can get out of here and figure out how to get out of those later. Even without powers, that’s familiar territory for him.

He’s bracing himself to get out of the room, maybe try smashing the chair against a wall (it’s either plastic or metal that’s doing a very good job at pretending to be plastic), when the zip tie on his left ankle abruptly releases.

And then the right.

Redshift’s first instinct is to kick, but some figure in dark clothing darts out of his way. “Wow, losing your touch,” a familiar voice mutters, getting behind him and cutting the zip tie on his wrists.

This is really weird, but he’s not going to not accept Crank’s help in getting out of this weirdass place where someone just almost tortured him to find out where Danny is, so Redshift takes the opportunity and stands up.

And then the room tips sideways and his legs buckle, but he doesn’t hit the ground, because Crank inserts himself under Redshift’s arm just in time, throwing his arm around Redshift’s waist and taking some of his weight.

He’s not dressed like Crank, but Redshift knows that voice, and he knows that hair— even if it is a different color— and most importantly, he knows that green fire.

“You have a bandanna on your face where your mask should be,” Redshift says.

“Move your ass,” Crank says.

“I thought Dispatch was the one who blew stuff up.”

“Learned some stuff from her. You’re woozy, okay? We’re getting you to a nice deserted alleyway where you can get your wits back and brush off some of the debris and go home. And more importantly, I can go home.”

“You saved me.”

“Yeah, and I really shouldn’t have,” Crank grumbles. “Caesar is gonna kick my ass so hard I’ll be in Seattle if he ever figures out it was me, so you need to shut up so we can both get out of here.”

True to his word, Crank helps Redshift to a reasonably deserted alley far from where he’d been jumped (although he hadn’t told Crank where that was, so Redshift doubts that impacted Crank’s decision), sticks around long enough to ask if he needs an anonymous person to call an ambulance, and when Redshift says he doesn’t, dusts himself off and leaves. But once he’s rounded the corner and Redshift can’t see him anymore, the bandanna (minus Crank) whips back around the corner and lands on the ground lamentably far from Redshift.

He scoots over to it and picks it up.

Written in the same chalk that Crank usually uses for temporary, obnoxious, Redshift-targeted graffiti, the bandanna says, Don’t say I never did anything for you. Stay away from Caesar. Keep Blueshift away too.

Honestly, Redshift probably could have figured that out without Crank’s help, but the warning is nice. And also is not going to stop him from going after Caesar again, once he’s back on his feet and has the rest of the Vindicators with him. ( Minus Danny, of course, and he thinks everyone else will agree with him on that front. Even Danny, probably.)

Caesar and Steel Coyote didn’t fuck up his comms, which Redshift figures is probably the only good coincidence of today, so he calls Mission Control for a transport. Hell, he doesn’t care if Grasshopper comes to jump him across the city again, he just does not want to walk another step without help. Not that he would get that far, his legs still feel rubbery.

 

Alex gets about five minutes to himself with a cup of orange juice before Eli arrives in all his crisis-solving-whirlwind-y mode.

He gives a monotone summary of the attack, the interrogation, and Crank’s surprise rescue, but he leaves out the bandanna, because if he mentions it, Eli is going to demand that he hand it over so they can run DNA testing on it, and Eli is right, but that doesn’t stop Alex from wanting to hold on to it. It might be useful for future encounters with Crank.

Eli doesn’t look up from his phone the whole time, typing at lightning speed, and when Alex finishes, he looks like he’s got all the answers ready. “Come on, your legs have recovered, right?” When Alex nods, he says, “Okay, then get up, we’re going over to the med bay. We’ll just need to do some tests, figure out exactly what they did, and then we can look at how to fix it. It’s possible your organs will handle that part, but if it doesn’t wear off, then we can figure out an antidote.”

“What kinds of tests?” Alex says, following him down the hall and thanking Kim with every additional step for the orange juice.

“Well, obviously check your coordination, reflexes, stuff like that. We want to make sure there’s no damage to anything besides your powers. You said your heart is beating slower?”

Alex nods. “By a lot.”

“Your heart rate’s always been high— we thought it might be related to your powers, so hopefully that’s why. But we will need to do a blood test, check for slow-acting toxins and stuff like that, and get a sample so we know what’s in that shit.”

“A blood test?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Alex’s mind is already back to syringes and needles and being tied up. “Nope. Not doing that.”

It’s when Eli actually stops walking and puts his phone back in his pocket that Alex registers how far out of the bounds of normal assholery that takes him.

He stops.

“Not doing the blood test,” Eli echoes. “Tell me, Alex, how did they get you to take the serum?”

“They injected it,” Alex says, his voice rougher than he wants. “You know that.”

“I didn’t, actually. I just thought so.” He sighs. “Okay, no blood test. At least not now. If things haven’t improved in a couple days, we will need to do one, but we’ll figure something out. For now, though, let’s just do that other stuff and get you home.”

“Home sounds great.”

“Good, because as soon as you come back tomorrow we’re talking more about Crank and what this means about his allegiances.”

“You know how to have a good time.”

“Don’t I? Well, really, I was thinking about if we can use that to get him to help us bring down this Caesar person. You said he thought Caesar would beat him up?”

“Yeah.”

“I have some ideas.”

“What about Dispatch, though?”

Eli waves a hand. “We’ll figure her out once we figure out Crank. Let me worry about that for now. You need to go home and sleep so you can be back here tomorrow and we can start working out the details.”