They were back in Seattle at the request of Amanda. She had felt a pull and so they had gone. Martin hadn’t expected anything besides the usual smashing, bashing, and maybe sneaking a snack from the British airhead.
“When are we getting where we're going?” Vogel had long since grown tired of his games with the others in the backseat, and was now leaning forward, tapping Martin on the arm. “Vater, where are we doing? Going.”
“Gonna go see that British dude and Drummer’s brother.” Martin said, glancing back for only a moment before returning his attention to the road.
“Love that guy! He has a cool voice!”
“Yeah but can that voice shoot lasers?” Gripps threw a rubber ball at the back of Vogel’s head, and Cross caught it as it bounced away.
“No one's voice can shoot lasers.” He rolled his eyes.
“We ain’t seein’ Abaddon.” Martin said. And hopefully after his last run in with them, he’d never see them again. “Just visitin’ the Brit and the brother.”
“Hey come on guys. Farah is gonna shoot you if you break something in the agency again.” That was Amanda now, pulling Vogel backwards so he wasn't poking Martin anymore. “We agreed to be nice to Dirk.”
“Oh we’ll leave Red alone.” Martin said.
“Martin.” There was a light warning in Amanda’s voice. “No breaking inside the agency anymore. We can break outside. I hear some pretty homophobic office neighbors moved in.”
“Good. We’ll start there after we visit.” Martin said as he pulled the van onto the agency’s street.
“Why are you so against being cool with Dirk? Like come on, did he murder your childhood imaginary friend?”
“Ain’t got nothing against Red.” Martin said as an odd feeling started to pick at the inside of his head. It felt like he had forgotten something, but he couldn’t figure out what it could have been.
“Dude he saved us and you're still- woah!”
Amanda let out a shrill, ear-splitting sound as Martin veered the van off to the left, bumping up onto the sidewalk. Todd had run out into the street to flag the van down, and he looked a little worse for wear. A bloodied nose - the blood had only just dried - and some cuts on his face and in his clothes suggested they had just gotten off a case.
“That’s it.” Martin growled as he put the van in park and hopped out. “The fuck’s your damage Brotzman?”
“Woah! He said a bad word!” Vogel was leaning out of the window, gawking at the two.
“Martin man listen I seriously need your-” Todd was backing up as quick as he could, and his foot caught on the sidewalk. He fell to the concrete wuth a hard thud, but he didn't seem to mind. “Man something's wrong with Dirk I need your help.”
“Somethin’ ‘bout to be wrong with you, boy.” Martin growled as he stalked forward. “Just runnin’ in the street? Are ya, tryin’, to-”
Martin frowned as he felt the odd sensation in his head get worse. He was definitely forgetting something, or maybe, remembering something wrong?
“Just stop it!” Todd huffed. He held out what looked like a blue, glowing piece of candy. “Give this to everyone before their memories get changed. Please? Something is wrong with Dirk this is serious I know you hate me but you can hit me later.”
Martin glared at him a moment longer before he snatched the whatever it was from Todd, taking one of the pieces and tossing it back to the others.
“Case, boys! Take one right quick.”
Vogel caught it easily in his hand, and the van was filled with raucous laughter as the candy started being passed around. Martin heard a sharp exhale come from Todd.
“What’s wrong with Red?” No, that wasn’t right. “With Brit.”
“There was this case. And, I don't know. We were investigating this rift. And then Dirk, wasn't Dirk anymore.” Todd tipped his head to the side. “I mean. He still exists. But, we- Farah thinks he's been… swapped.”
“The energy off this, unconscious kid? It's reading 1996.”
“Kid?” Martin frowned.
“Yeah he still has like, the jumpsuit, thing, on. Look Martin, I don't even know what's happening. I, you're the only person I could think who'd know what to do.”
Martin stared down at the candy in his hand and popped it back just as an image of a ruffled, confused, and stupidly surprised Dirk appeared in his head. But he was out of place. It looked like-
“Farah’s right.” Martin said.
“That is not comforting!” Todd gave a little whisper yell. “Just. Can you please come in?”
“Yeah.” Martin sighed. He glanced back at the others who looked like they were ready to raise hell. “Wait out here for a bit.”
“Don't bite Todd!” Amanda’s voice filtered through the van windows.
“Todd.” A new voice was by the door, and as both Todd and Martin turned, Farah was standing in the doorway. “Uh, child, is, awake. I'm gonna get hot chocolate for him.”
“And cookies.” Martin said as he dragged Todd to his feet. “Somethin’ extra sweet.”
“Sorry for the van, man.” Todd mumbled. “We'll buy you a new tire if that one’s popped. I just, what the fuck are we even supposed to do here?”
“Well, I’d tell ya’ but ya’ had me eat one of them candies.” Martin said, glancing over at Todd as they headed for the door and passed Farah as she headed to her car.
“Okay we just. Really need like, him to trust us? And you're the only one who’ll know how to interact with him. But also I feel like he may not like you.” Todd was starting to ramble now, a trait he had long since picked up from Dirk.
“Oh, he’s gonna hate me.” Martin said. “But we’re gonna use that for a bit.”
“I'd call Ken because like, he would have been able to see the flux because he is the most annoying spy ever. But, I can't, he's not even in the country. He sent the Blackwing team to Russia on a false tip.” Todd was sighing now as he held the front door open for Martin. “Like, what the hell is- we probably have to convince him this isn't a Blackwing, thing. Right? Maybe? How old even is he right now?”
“Too young.” Martin sighed as he stepped in and glanced around. He could smell the panic and confusion, but he couldn’t see wherever the kid was hiding.
“Back room.” Todd pulled Martin to a stop then, both standing in the pale room; the only color in the waiting room was from the goofy, colorful beanbags. “Dirk doesn't, talk about his past. You know. But um. Kid, Dirk, doesn't really, look like Dirk. Sort of.”
“No, he doesn’t.” Martin nodded. “‘Ssumming you two ain’t talked ‘bout that then?”
“Well I was gonna ask him out after the case ended. We probably would have then. Or not. It's his right to like, not tell. The kid just… confused us.” Todd frowned, talking a bit slower as he tried to find his words.
“Whether Svlad, Icarus, or Dirk, they’re all confusing.” Martin sighed.
“Okay um, just. Please be less imposing. You look like you could eat my heart out.” Todd grumbled, and he let go of Martin.
“You’re too stringy.” Martin said as he he started back toward the back room with a smirk.
“What the fuck.” Todd didn't move, calling out to Martin with an exasperated tone.
Martin ignored him in favor of knocking on the door. Knocking would be good, because only dangerous people walked in, the decent ones - or as decent as you could get with an evil government agency - always knocked.
“Hello?” There was a muffled voice through the door. Martin had never noticed, but there was no british accent. It was a Romanian one.
“Hey, kid. Can I come in?” Martin asked.
“Do you have a gun with you?” The voice answered back. “Because, I told that woman, no coming back until hers is gone.”
“Ain’t got a gun.” Martin didn’t need a gun.
“Well then, I suppose.”
Martin sighed and pushed the door open. This was either going to go fine, or it wasn’t. If Martin was a betting man, he’d be leaning toward the latter.
The child on the couch they kept in the back snapped up straight to attention; there was barely any hair there to fall into his face. A familiar jumpsuit - grey and orange - was far too big on their body. It was likely they'd just switched to the adult size.
“Ain’t got nothin’ to worry ‘bout. Just wanna talk.” Martin said, raising his hands in surrender and making sure to leave the door open in case the kid wanted to bolt.
Svlad, he was an angry kid. He was nothing like Dirk. But there was a fear and helplessness that Blackwing instilled in all of them - especially Dirk - that cropped up at the first sign of danger. This was what was happening now, and Svlad was sitting perfectly still with his eyes trained on Martin. Martin could smell all the panic wafting off of him.
“First things first. Ya’ hurtin’ anywhere?” Martin asked, moving away from the door, but not closer to the couch.
“I'm- I'm not, I'm perfectly-” Svlad was having clear trouble speaking. “I am, fine, I- Priest is- it's just a, yes. Yes. I am perfect. Nothing, is ever, wrong.”
“Alright. Well, Priest ain’t here. So, ya’ don’t gotta worry about that.” Martin took a seat at the far table. “What’s the last thing ya’ remember?”
“Why do you care?” Svlad looked like he was ready to run, but his right leg was completely limp, while everything else was tense.
“Because I’m the one who knows what’s goin’ on. Answer the question, Svlad.” Martin said.
“The test with the numbers and the knives. I failed and was thrown into my room. It's been about two sleep cycles. Sorry.” Svlad leaned back a little, tilting his head down.
“Do ya’ remember wakin’ up with the short one and the one with the gun?” Martin asked.
“No sir, there was a strange, light, in my room. Then I'm in this room now.”
“Farah explain anythin’ that happened?”
“No sir, the woman seemed, very panicked.”
“Know who I am?” Martin raised an eyebrow as he watched Svlad. The boy took a deep breath, but he didn't say anything condescending.
“You're the oldest member of Project Incubus, sir.”
“Great.” Martin nodded, glancing around the room and smiling at the amount of modern technology. The television, DVD player, what looked like a game system.
“Alright. Ya’ ain’t gonna believe me if I tell ya’ what's goin’ on. So, use that brain of yours. What do ya’ think is happenin’?”
“Um, personally, when I was younger Thor used to visit my mother. Weird thing. But-” Svlad had nervous chitters in their voice. “He used to use these lights to teleport around. So, something like that. To a weird place where Incubus doesn't try to eat me.”
“Not bad.” Martin nodded. That was probably fairly close to the truth.
“Thank you. My friend Mona and I want to be detectives. That's what I named her, Mona.” Svlad almost - almost - smiled at Martin. “These people are weird. I don't like them.”
“Well, Todd’s gonna be bummed to hear that.” Martin snorted as he stood and headed over to the door. He glanced around the office quickly, catching Todd’s eye, but moving on before Todd had a chance to say anything.
“Well Mr. Not Incubus, do you have clothes? Because if I wear these a second longer I will burn someone on a pike.” Svlad was saying in the background.
“Aggressive. I like it.” Martin said, humming as he spotted the small clown doll on Dirk’s desk. He walked forward and snatched it before walking back into the room, ignoring Todd’s terrified looks. “Alright, I know they got spare clothes around here. You’re gonna pick some for yourself.”
“Um, right.” Svlad got a weird tone to his voice, frowning. “I'll just, dance right along. Yes. Walking.”
“Mona, crutch, please.” Martin said, holding his hand out as the small clown toy vanished and was replaced by a shiny, silver crutch, the perfect height for Svlad.
“You know what I could do with this? I could hit the small one. Small one! Where are you?” Svlad called out, grabbing the crutch. It took a moment for him to stand; gods only knew what was wrong with his leg. “I suppose I can form an alliance with you, Mr. Not Incubus. You can be my assistant.”
“Todd is really gonna be bummed now.” Martin smirked as Todd appeared in the door, looking just a bit confused at being called ‘the small one’.
“Hello Small One! We haven't been properly introduced! I'm Svlad. Svlad Cjelli.” Svlad’s accent was thick as he stuck his hand out; the smile on his face was less sweet as it was mischievous.
“Todd, Brotzman.” Todd said, carefully shaking Svlad’s hand while muttering that the whole situation was weird.
“You should have been the first indication that I wasn't in Blackwing. I mean, you simply have no balls whatsoever.”
Martin snorted as Todd looked progressively more confused.
“Ya’ ain’t got any idea. He’s been pining after this complete klutz and still, nothin’. Just sad longin’.” Martin said, leaning in a bit closer to Svlad.
“Eh. I like men who can cook personally.” Svlad leaned back, still smiling. “Don't worry. I have nothing down there either. I do have a carrot sometimes. I steal them. I like throwing them at the guards and hitting then in their eyes.”
“Um-” Todd started. “I-”
“Todd is actually in need of a detective and was hopin’ ya’ could give ‘im a hand.” Martin said.
“I'm a detective!” Svlad gasped. “You have to pay me in cookies though. And- no?”
Svlad frowned. He reached into the little pockets the jumpsuit had, and pulled out a cookie. “Hm. Hello.”
“I think we can negotiate, cookies.” Todd said, nodding slowly. “Farah ran out to get some, and hot chocolate, so-”
“Mr. Not Incubus. I'm afraid you'll have to be demoted to second assistant. I've found my first one.” Svlad let the cookie drop to the floor.
But the cookie was gone, and a little girl - she was more of a teenager really - was sitting on the floor.
“Shit.” Martin hissed as he eyed the crutch.
“Hi.” Little Mona whispered. “Hi Martin. Hi blue one. Hi Svlad. Hi me.”
“Blue-” Todd frowned as Martin snatched the crutch from under Svlad’s arm and took its place, keeping him up, while holding the crutch farther away from Little Mona.
“Don't be mean.” The crutch was now standing in front of him as their Mona, glaring at Martin the best she could. “I remember this. I have to leave. Because I remember leaving. Bye bye now, me.”
“Bye bye.” Little Mona gave a small wave, and watched a butterfly fly out the window. “Is that the outside? Why are there lilies? Lilies are ew-y flowers. Blue one, fix it.”
“I, I mean, they aren’t our flowers, but, sure.” Todd sighed as he walked over to the window and closed it.
“You wear such funny clothes Martin.” Mona whispered.
“It’s a new thing.” Martin said as he glanced over toward the window older Mona had disappeared through.
They had forgotten to give her one of the candies. She knew what was going to happen. It would have been rather nice to talk to her, but Martin supposed ensuring that time-space didn’t collapse in on itself was more important. And using time travel logic, whatever they did was at least semi- successful because Mona was there.
Martin hated time travel.
“Come Mona. Martin. Short one.” Svlad gave an even wider smile. “Let's find clothes!”