The rain had finally stopped. It had been raining the whole damn day. He hated the rain. Rain always brought out the worst scents in the city, washing away all the perfume and glamor, stripping it down to its base of urine and bad decisions.
The settlers called the city New Dover after the chalk cliffs they found reminded them of home. The land created a natural harbor which quickly helped establish New Dover as the gateway to the New World, setting it down the path to become one of the largest, most important cities on Earth. By the 21st century New Dover became the cultural hub of the world, the heart of the global economy, and home to the greatest technological and scientific innovations of all time. But since the 1930’s New Dover’s became known for something much different, the metropolis became home to the largest community of what most people call superheroes. The official name for these individuals was still Abnormals, even though civil rights movements around the world fought for more appropriate monikers. But regardless of if you called them Supers, Gifteds, Capes, Freaks or any other countless euphemisms; they would always be thought of as Abnormals.
Detective Marvin Morrison had been with the NDPD for close to fifteen years now. A member of the Abnormal Crimes Division, Marv was tasked with mopping up the crimes committed by the incalculable legions of Abnormal criminals. Bank robberies, museum heists, the occasional kidnapping, death ray related ransoms, and every once and a while the odd murder. Most of the time the Supers did the heavy lifting, swooping in in the nick of time to clobber the bad guys and dismantle their evil machinations, leaving Marv to deal with the paperwork and due process side of the equation. The law was a little fuzzy regarding Abnormal heroes, which created a bit of a minefield when dealing with the idiots who thought that they had what it takes to actually succeed at a crime in the city. Officially none of the Supers were deputized, and had no legal authority to arrest anyone. That’s where Marv and the rest of the NDPD came in. On the books the Supers were just well-meaning citizens, making citizens-arrests, letting the police do the actual incarcerations. Laws had been tweaked and rewritten to make vigilantism not-quite legal, but not-quite illegal either. It kept the Supers autonomous and gave the city a modicum of deniability when it came to the treatment the criminals sustained at their hands. But the government didn’t let the Abnormals run wild without facing any sort of culpability. Every Abnormal was registered with the government and given an identification card that listed their name, address, and ability.
And one of those identification cards was currently sitting in a special pocket on the wallet that held Marv Morrison’s badge. It had been a tradition of the NDPD to post Abnormals in the Abnormal Crimes Division, assuming that they would be somewhat more skilled in policing their own kind. But Marv had certainly drawn the short stick when it came to his Super Gene. Not everyone had an impressive power suite of flight, super strength and invulnerability like the Centurion, most Abnormals had much more mundane gifts. There was a subset of abilities that were generally known as “super senses.” And that’s where Marv’s gene had manifested.
Marvin Morrison had a superhuman sense of smell.
He could identify every person he’d ever met by their scent alone, and could track a person across the whole damn city. But it certainly had its downsides. People complained about the stench that came along with such a large city even without enhanced senses, and they had no idea what it was like to have such a delicate nose. Every sewer grate was a barely concealed cesspool that threatened to knock him unconscious. The accumulated smog that belched from the fleets of taxis and buses in the city choked the air out of his lungs with each breath. Nine million citizens were packed into New Dover, each with their own natural scents paired with hundreds of pungent perfumes and colognes, hundreds of food carts and restaurants, and who knows how many different smells from the ocean mixed together to create a miasma of smells that threatened a sensory overload so severe that it could trigger a complete mental breakdown. The Super Gene gave Abnormals amazing abilities, but the human body wasn’t evolved to deal with these gifts yet. Thankfully, Marv’s ability wasn’t constant, he could control in. One of the first things normal people asked when they found out Marv was an Abnormal was “how does it work?” The best Marv could ever explain it was that throughout the day, his sense of smell was just like everyone else’s, maybe a little sharper than the average person, but that was probably just because he was so used to relying on it that he knew how to process smells better than most, but if he wanted to use his ability, he just smelled…harder. It’s almost impossible to explain an ability to a normal person. It’s like describing sight to a person who was born blind. You can’t explain the effort it takes to see, you just do it. So whenever Marv needed to use his ability he just concentrated, and suddenly he could smell everything. It was like night and day. He usually only used his ability is quick bursts, no more than a minute at a time, otherwise he’d get slammed with a migraine from the sensory overload. But when he used his ability, it was incredible. Marv could smell a suspect begin to sweat, he could pick out the pheromones people released, hell, he could even go to a crime scene, sniff out a prep’s cologne and trace it around the room, recreating the path they took. It may not have been a glamorous, flashy ability, but it certainly came in handy.
At the moment Marv was sitting in his beat up sedan, sweating through the rumpled beige suit he wore on the job, and keeping a careful eye on a dingy apartment building across the street. A fat cigar was propped up in his mouth, oozing dark clouds of smoke into the car. A few years ago, an Abnormal who called herself the Panacea left the Omegas, the world’s largest group of Abnormal heroes, and started using her abilities to heal people to travel the globe curing cancer, AIDs, and other incurable diseases. It apparently took an amazing toll on her body to just cure one case, but so far she’d been working over-time, curing as many people as possible, and working with scientists to create a serum from her blood that could potentially have the same effect as direct use of her powers. And just like that, smoking came back into style in a big way. Countless people picked the filthy little habit back up once they were assured that there was a cure available, Marv included.
So Marv sat in his car, trying to find a comfortable position as his wristwatch let him know it was now 10:30 at night, and his stakeout had reached its third hour. That apartment was the home of Byron McGregor, a two-bit con man who had spent most of his life in and out of juvenile halls and jails, usually for running fixed Three-Card Monte tables in the more tourist centric areas of New Dover, and finally upgrading to stealing people’s wallets. Marv was currently staking his apartment out because he’d been on a bit of a robbery spree, breaking into people homes and absconding with hundreds if not thousands of dollars of loot. All with the help of his ability.
McGregor hadn’t been home all day, but his neighbors said he was there earlier in the day, so it didn’t look like he’d flown the coop yet. At least that’s what Marv was hoping. His partner Angie Belmont was out watching the pawn shop that McGregor’s fence worked at, hedging their bets that he’d show up at one of the locations.
Marv leaned back in his seat, a huge sigh escaping his lips. He plucked the stubby cigar from his mouth, assessed its diminutive size, and dropped it into the cup of cold coffee in his cup holder,and it went out with a hiss. He ran his hand through his greasy hair that seemed to be becoming more gray by the day, and glanced up at the rearview mirror, watching pedestrians jaywalking and a flashy sports car make an illegal U-turn. Not his business tonight though. Although it could help with the boredom. As he thought about chasing after the sports car though, he noticed a particularly tall, ginger haired man come around the corner. Marv perked up in his seat, squinting and coming closer to the mirror to try and get a better look. As the man got closer Marv was satisfied that Byron McGregor himself was sauntering down the street, not a care in the world.
Once the man was inside the apartment building, Marv gave him three minutes of peace before he charged in and arrested him, hoping to catch him off guard. Marv drummed his fingers on the dash board impatiently, his eyes flicking back and forth between his watch and the door to the apartment. Finally, he decided he’d given McGregor enough time, and slid out of the car, flapping his suit jacket to get some much needed air to his sweaty back. He hobbled across the street, trying to work some feeling back into his legs. A woman was leaving the apartment as he reached the door, and he slipped in, happy to avoid having to buzz in and explain what he was doing there. McGregor was living on the third floor, so Marv trotted up the steps, not proud at the amount of sweat that that meager workout had brought to his brow. He slipped a battered notebook out of his jacket coat to double check which apartment McGregor lived in. He’d heard of horror stories in the precinct of cops busting into the wrong doors and running into violent Abnormals who were in no mood to deal with the police. And here Marv was intentionally dropping in on a violent Abnormal.
He reached the door that had 305 stenciled onto the ugly burgundy door. The hallway was cramped and dimly lit, the carpet and paint job looking like they hadn’t been updated since Marv had been in college. There was trash littering the hallway, an overpowering smell of Indian food coming from one of the neighboring apartments, and the sound of a squealing child coming from a floor up. Charming place.
Marv leaned his head close to the door, and set his ear against the wood. McGregor was blaring some hip hop song that Marv couldn’t care less about, and from the sound of it, banging pots and pans together. After a moment of listening, Marv took a breath and tried to clear his mind. As he did so he brought his nose up to the door frame. Once he was ready, he brought a deep breath into his nose.
There was an explosion of scents and information. He could smell the particular brand of curry powder that the Indian family across the hall was using. The child that was squealing upstairs was running with a lemon sucker, and it didn’t appear she’d bathed in a few days. There was a baby who had just soiled its cheap diaper in the apartment next to McGregor’s, and the person next to them had three cats, one of which was incontinent. An old truck that was no longer meeting emission standards was pulling away in the alley outside, and a hotdog cart that desperately needed to change the water the dogs were floating in was being pushed down the sidewalk in front of the door. But he tried to push all of that out of his mind. None of that mattered. What mattered was what was inside Byron McGregor’s apartment. There was an overpowering smell of marijuana. Cheap stuff too. Apparently McGregor wasn’t using his ill-gotten gains on a better class of weed. The potency made Marv assume he was using a bong, not a pipe or joint. There was a minutia of greasy fast food containers throughout the apartment, with various ages on them all. There was an open Budweiser in the same location as the bong, and a slice of microwave pizza. Pepperoni. McGregor had a window open that was letting the hot dog cart’s smell in. And most importantly, there was the tacky cologne McGregor was wearing. It was some cheap swill that they sold in drug stores, and it seemed that McGregor was bathing in the damn stuff. He must have walked into the apartment, lingered at the table with the bong, probably getting it ready, before going into what was presumably the kitchen to get the beer and pizza ready where he waited for a minute, and he was now in another room, the bathroom by the proximity of soap and shampoo smells, having taken a momentary pit stop at the table to have a hit from the bong.
Marv’s eyes snapped open and he staggered back from the door. There was a dull ache in his head roughly between his eyes. The olfactory bulb was right back there, and unfortunately his Super Gene hadn’t strengthened it any, so it was prone to getting overused when he used his ability. He’d only inhaled once, for about four seconds, and all of that information had flooded in. He had met a fellow super-smeller in Ohio who had used a modified olfactometer, a gadget the usually was used to determine the magnitude of odors, but now enhanced the sense even further. He said that when he used the olfactometer he could identify every smell on the entire campus and the surrounding city at once. Shortly after he had a near fatal stroke, and had the olfactometer destroyed shortly after getting discharged from the hospital two months later.
After a moment of recuperation Marv steeled himself for the encounter with McGregor. He heard a toilet flush over the sound of the music and assumed McGregor had come back to the table with the bong and pizza. Marv rolling his neck around, hearing dozens of cracks and groans from the cartilage, and loosened his tie. His fist wrapped against the old door three times. Unlike many of his colleagues Marv didn’t like to bash on the door and yell “police!” It gave the perps too much warning, and spooked them. And when it came to Abnormals who were using their abilities to commit crimes, it was never wise to spook them.
“Who’s there?!” a voice yelled over the music.
Marv thought about how to answer, and settled with knocking three more times.
After a pause the same slightly inebriated voice shouted back. “Fuck off!”
Marv took a deep breath and cleared his throat before repeating his knock.
There was a sound of movement and grumbled speech that Marv assumed with profanity. The music was still blaring. The door didn’t have a peep hole, so McGregor was going to have to open the door if he wanted to know who was bothering him. Apparently it didn’t have a chain either, or he wasn’t using it, because the door swung wide open, and Marv was hit with a tidal wave a marijuana odor. McGregor stood at around six feet six inches, just a touch over Marv’s height, but was rail thin. His shaggy red hair hung down to his eyebrows, and he had a patchy beard growing. Battered sweat pants and a stained white wife-beater hung from his lanky frame. There was a look of anger on his face as the door opened, which quickly gave way to confusion at the unfamiliar face that was bothering his high.
“Byron McGregor?” Marv asked in a friendly voice, or at least as friendly as his whisky-cured growl would allow.
McGregor looked at him for a moment, still baffled at who in the world he might be, before there was a flash of realization that ran across his dopey face.
“Fuck. A cop,”
Before Marv could say anything though, McGregor’s fist whipped up at a speed Marv was not anticipating, and cracked him hard against the nose. The kid had clearly never thrown a punch before, and was just emulating movies, so there wasn’t a lot of effective force behind the hit, all arms and no hip, but it was still enough to bring tears to Marv’s eyes, and blood to his nose. He staggered backward, more in shock then pain, and as he wiped the tears from his eyes he saw McGregor bolting into the apartment, toward the open window and the fire escape that was right outside it.
Taking a second or two longer than he would have liked, Marv sprang into action and ran after McGregor. As he was running across the filthy living room that the door fed into, Marv’s training kicked in and he took a mental picture of his surroundings. The cramped kitchen was to the left of the door, and what appeared to be the bedroom and bathroom was to the right. The living room was primarily just an old green corduroy couch, a small coffee table that looked like it came from IKEA that was holding the pizza and bong, a large flat screen television, and the stereo that was still blasting out the rap. In the corner closest to the bedroom was a pile of random objects that Marv assumed was the loot from last night’s haul. By the time Marv reached the old couch McGregor had reached the window, and thrown himself out the window, right over the fire escape and into the alley between the two buildings. It was then that Byron McGregor used his ability.
After one of the houses he’d robbed had caught a clear picture of him with a security camera, Marv was able to confirm that Byron McGregor was the serial burglar, and after that he was able to access the Abnormal Database and learn about McGregor’s ability. Byron McGregor’s Super Gene had manifested in a category that was known as “intangibility.” Abnormals with this class of ability were able to convert the mass of their body into different states of being. Some were able to turn into water, some sand; there was even an Abnormal in the database who could turn his body into different form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Byron McGregor could turn his body, and anything directly touching his skin, into a black smoke.
So after throwing himself out of the window, Marv saw the young man silently explode into a massive cloud of hazy smoke, and begin to drift down to the street. He’d been using his ability to turn into smoke, slip through door frames or even the caulking of windows, grab everything he could carry, convert back to smoke, and slip away into the night. It was a pretty good scheme, and until the security camera had gotten lucky the thefts had been stumping Marv and Angie. Intangibility wasn’t a common ability, and it certainly hadn’t jumped to either of their minds. But now Marv had the smoky bastard.
Marv reached the window, and quickly began running down the fire escape to the alley below. He didn’t know how much control McGregor had over his smoke form, but the cloud was slowly floating down to the ground, about at the speed a feather may fall, being rocked back and forth by the wind, and he seemed to not mind that Marv was going to the same location. At each stair case, Marv leapt down as many steps as he could, trying to save time, his shins and knees making him promises of pain and punishment for these measures. He wasn’t as young as he thought he was.
McGregor’s cloud reached the ground as Marv got to the last landing, and the smoke quickly brought itself back together and formed into the gangly ginger that had slugged Marv in the apartment. After taking a moment to get his head together, McGregor started running toward the street. Marv leapt down the last flight of stairs and took off after McGregor, reaching into his coat to draw his revolver.
“Byron McGregor! Stop where you are! You’re under arrest!” Marv shouted hoarsely, running out of breath.
McGregor spun around to look at Marv. He was still about twelve yards from the street. His eyes grew large when he saw the revolver in Marv’s hand, but then a smug look of defiance crept across his face.
“Yeah right cop. You won’t shoot me this close to other people. Plus, it’s not like bullets do a whole lot of good on me. Maybe you didn’t notice the smoke back there.”
McGregor continued to stand there, mocking Marv’s authority, converting his arms back to their gaseous state as if to demonstrate his ability again.
Marv’s eyes flicked down to his revolver, and he raised the gun up, taking careful aim at McGregor’s core.
“Is that so?” Marv asked with a devious grin.
The fear crept back into McGregor’s eyes, and he turned back to the street, turning into smoke as he started to run again.
Marv fired the gun.
But it wasn’t a bullet that came out of his gun.
The problem that the Abnormal Crimes Division ran into with intangibles was just that they couldn’t be held. They slipped right out of hand cuffs, right out of the back of police cars, and even out of jails. It didn’t make sense to hold intangible criminals to some sort of honor code but there wasn’t a better way to contain them. Until yesterday.
Once it became apparent that the burglar was an intangible, Marv had put a call into Mr. Brilliant, a member of the Omegas and reputably the smartest man in the world. A few hours later Brilliant showed up at the precinct with a new invention. It was the size and shape of a bullet, and could be fired from a standard issue revolver. But it wasn’t a bullet. It was essentially a more scientific vacuum. When fired at an intangible, it would let out some sort of electromagnetic pulse that would rapidly attract the molecules of an intangible, then using the Mighty Mite’s shrinking technology, it shrunk them and drawing them into the bullet sized containment device, where the Abnormal would be kept, unconscious but still in their intangible form, until brought back to the headquarters where Brilliant had devised a special cell that would keep the criminals from using their power. It didn’t make a lot of sense to Marv, and he was probably getting most of that wrong, but his job wasn’t to understand the science, it was the catch assholes like McGregor.Brilliant had admitted he hadn’t had time to properly test the device, and urged Marv to run some sort of drill before using it.
This seemed like a good time to test.
The device sped toward McGregor, and once it reached his smoky form, it let loose the pulse, and started drawing him into itself. Marv wasn’t sure if a cloud of smoke could scream, but it sure sounded like it did. After just a moment, the entire cloud had been drawn into the device, and it fell to the street with a clatter that wasn’t unlike the sound of a penny dropping on concrete.
Marv sauntered over to the device. There was a crowd of people forming at the mouth of the alley, drawn by the bark of Marv’s pistol. He looked at them as he approached, and flashed his badge. That did little to dissuade the crowd, who merely took a collective step back, but remained to gawk. Marv shrugged his shoulders, and bent down to pick up the bullet shaped device. It now weighed about thirty pounds, which took Marv by surprise, and after an embarrassing moment, he was able to pick the bullet up.
“Well what do you know?” he muttered to himself, rubbing his stubbly chin with his spare hand. “Now let’s see if the bastard’s still alive in there.”