Chapter 137 – Illegal
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Diego's escorts, armed and murder-eyed, yanked him away from the urinal before he had a chance to finish zipping up. He didn't even glance at the faucet as they marched him out of the bathroom; his main priority was not tripping over the feet of the very large men who very obviously considered him a traitor or a national security threat. They hustled him down a hall and back to the room that had become intimately familiar to him. Its four walls, ceiling, and floor were all hard block and concrete, the door metal. The only furniture were dented folding chairs around an uneven card table. The air stank of cigarettes and urine -- they had not taken him seriously the first time he told them he needed a brake immediately.

Back into the chair, hands cuffed once more behind his back. Diego drew in a shuddering breath, telling himself that crying from frustration wouldn't improve his situation in any way. These jerks would probably find extra motivation in any sign of his misery. One of the men stabbed his cigarette into an ash tray and casually pushed it away so that the smoke from the butt wafted lazily towards Diego's face. The man stood and stretched out, almost as if mocking Diego's lack of mobility. No. Judging from the fierce smirk, there was no almost to the mocking.

"Let's go back to the beginning," the man said. "Why did you join the Angmari Fleet?"

Diego clenched his jaw as he stared at the ash tray. He could push the thing away with his new powers. They had been clear that if he used any of his talents, he would be treated as an escaping prisoner. Diego suspected they wanted an excuse to put a bullet in his brain. There wasn't anything he could do to get back at them. Or was there? He hadn't exactly been trained to use his fancy new abilities.

"I'm waiting to hear . . . ."

One of the interrogators in the background swore suddenly and dropped his cigarette. Everyone came to as if waking from a daydream. Diego blinked.

The lead interrogator cleared his throat. "Where was I? I think we just started over. Why did you join the Fleet, Diego Soto? Do you hate America?"

As ridiculous as the question was, Diego knew it wasn't a joke. They wanted to trip him up so that he said something on tape that could be used against him later. "I love America," he said. Let's get that on tape, he thought.

"If that was the case, why would you leave?"

"Do you think I had a better chance getting to space as an astronaut?"

"Not when you are in this country illegally."

Diego looked down at the table, wishing he could find a comfortable position. At some point, they would give him time to sleep. This couldn't keep going forever.

"We have people looking into your background as we . . . ."

Diego's mind abruptly snapped back into focus. What the hell is happening?

The interrogator pinched his nose, obviously frustrated. "Someone else take over. I need a coffee or something."

Mister Asshole strutted forward to slide into the chair across from Diego. The man was the shortest person present in the room but walked around like he was posing on stage for a physique contest. Very obviously, the man tanned a lot and whitened his teeth. "All right, Diego, tell me about these abilities you got from a foreign power."

"I don't know anything about them," Diego said.

"Really? Because in previous conversations you seemed to know some stuff."

"I was repeating details I was told previously in the interrogation."

Mister Asshole bristled at that. "Who was it that told you these details?"

"How am I supposed to answer that? None of you will tell me your names."

"So from what you say, you . . . ."

This time, Diego resisted the mental fuzzing with a bit of his new power, just the slightest touch on his mind in case they could somehow detect an internal use. Everyone else in the room had gone into a zombie state. They stood idly, staring at nothing in particular, jaws slack to give them a buffoonish cast. Minutes ticked by before the room came back to life.

His Napoleonic interrogator jerked around to stare at the others. "What the hell is going on in here? Is this guy doing something to our brains?"

Heads swiveled to fix on him. Diego's jaw dropped. "What? No! It's not me!"

Judging by the hard gazes, no one believed him innocent of anything. Diego pushed out his other talent, the one that let him move things. He wanted to be ready in case . . . that was odd. There was some strange resistance to the space, almost as if his captors had put up a disruption field to prevent him from doing anything.

Before anyone could make a move towards him, the door slammed open. "The EDA guy is here. The building catch one."

The lead interrogator pushed his shorter coworker out of the way. "What does that mean for us?"

"I'm not sure. The boss wanted me to let you know."

"Typical. She wants me to make the hard call."

The short guy stared down at Diego. "Let me handle him. We'll get pardons for sure."

"We can't just . . . ."

This time, as they went into zombie mode, Diego stood up and shuffled towards the door, trying to figure out how he was going to open it with his hands cuffed behind his back.

That question proved irrelevant as the door swung open. The man on the other side looked up from the surface of a phone to study his face. "Looks like I found you," he said.

Diego stared at the man in the all black uniform. "Uh . . . are you a building catch guy?"

"Yes. The name is Mike. Let's go inside and have a quick chat." Without waiting on a response, the other man shepherded Diego back into the room that he had spent over a day inside. Diego bumped into the short interrogator and the man's face made bloody contact with the corner of the table before he landed on the ground, where his hands reflexively cradled his face even as he remained nearly comatose. "My bad," Diego muttered under his breath.

The man who had introduced himself as Mike glanced at the uncomfortable chairs and the bleeding body briefly, then shrugged. "This all looks terrible."

"I wish I could say it grows on you after twenty-four hours," Diego said, not quite making eye contact with the man who could be his savior or his executioner.

"I imagine you would really like a way out of these circumstances."


Mike folded his arms. "Fair enough. I'll get right to the point. I can take you out of here right now, but you have to enlist with the Earth Defense Army. We're not willing to pick a fight with the United States over a potential recruit. You have to decide in this room if you want to go all in with us."

"Is this Earth Defense Army a new thing? Because I have never heard of it."

"Extremely new, as these things go. Maybe two or three months old. We can train you to your full potential. The only other group that can claim the same is the Fleet, and you just left them."

"So, like, I have to fight people if I'm in this army?"

"You will face off with terrorists who have the talents, the Chekowan Fleet when they arrive, possibly even the Angmari if they get hostile. Mostly what we do is train soldiers from the various member nations of the UN. We won't throw you into any situations untrained, but you will eventually be expected to fight with us."

Diego sighed. He didn't like either of his options, but staying in the room seemed like suicide at this point.

"Do you have any questions? I can hold this meme blast for quite a while."

"What do they mean when they say you are a building catch guy?"

Mike shrugged. "I caught a building."

"Building like a shed or something?"

"Caught a building as in the Empire State Building."

Diego squinted at the man, not sure if that was supposed to be a joke. "Well, can you at least tell me if this is a coed army?"

"We do have female soldiers. Can you behave professionally in that type of environment?"

"I wouldn't be creepy or anything. I just spent a long time in a dudes-only situation, that's all."

Mike rolled his eyes. "Keep in mind that I will be enforcing proper behavior. Are you interested in joining?"

"I think we both know I don't have much of a choice here," Diego said.

"Then swear to serve according to the charter of the EDA and obey your superiors."

"Uh . . . I swear to serve according to the EDA charter and obey my superiors."

"Good. Now keep your mouth shut while I explain the situation to these guys."

The room sprang into confused motion as the interrogators and guards flinched back from Mike and Diego, pulling side arms and flattening against walls. Mike raised a single brow. "You guys really want to pick a fight with me?"

The head interrogator swore loudly. "Weapons down, everyone. Weapons down."

"Good call, boss. I'm taking this problem off your hands."

"We can't let you do that. Diego Soto is in our custody as a suspected terrorist."

"You can stop suspecting things now. It turns out he is a member of the EDA. He's coming back to headquarters with me."

"Or what? You're going to kill federal agents? You're going to want the Department of Homeland Security on your side in the upcoming political battles."

"I don't need to kill anyone," Mike said. "We can stroll on out of here with not a single concern. And if you want to fight a political battle, consider that the EDA always has the option of leaving American soil and not coming back. You don't have a gun pointed at our head, you're wearing a suicide vest all the way across the street."

The agent snarled at them. "Don't overestimate your own value, Mr. Dombroski. We have allies you don't know about yet."

"That's Centurion Dombroski. We'll be on our way now. Try not to trip on your own feet like your buddy there." Mike nodded to the man cradling his broken nose on the ground.

An absolutely crushing mental noise filled the compound, almost strong enough to defeat Diego's defenses. Around them, the agents wobbled and fell down one by one. Mike clapped Diego on the shoulder. "Come on, kid, I left a motorcycle helmet on the steps outside. You really want to get to it before some jagoff steals it."

Diego followed his benefactor out of the room, not sure exactly what he had gotten himself into. "What were you saying about a helmet?"