Vera was on an airplane. She wasn't in the air, but she was on an airplane. It was the interminable period where everyone had gotten in their seats, but, for some reason beyond human comprehension, the plane couldn't fly. She had spent the last half hour in a German airport.
Her cell phone vibrated. That was odd, she thought she remembered turning it off. She pulled it out of her pocket. Phoenix was calling. She paused before making sure it was off and putting it in her pocket.
It kept vibrating. Typical Phoenix. She pulled it out again to find that it was still on. She took out the battery. The phone didn't even make a show of turning off.
She put it in her pocket.
"Vera, get off that plane."
"Because you are taking that plane to Boston, where you will find Mephistopheles. You are not, by any means, a match for him. Get off the plane."
"I had a feeling talking wouldn't work."
Four hours later, the pilot was still working out technical difficulties. Two other flights to Boston were also grounded. Vera wasn't surprised.
Vera Rapport was no stranger to evading authorities. And she had to admit that Phoenix counted as the authorities. In the span of six hours, he had gotten her onto the no-fly list, tracked her through the city with an extensive network of security cameras, and even caused a traffic jam when she tried to rent a car.
She had one idea left. Get a bicycle. Go off the grid. Try to get a flight in another city. If that didn't work she'd go to Phoenix and demand the right to travel. Maybe even apologize for dumping him.
As it turned out, it didn't come to that. Phoenix was the one to apologize.
"I shouldn't have interfered with your life. You'll find a private jet waiting for you."
"This might be the first time you've changed your mind on you own." Changed my mind. If only she knew what an apt metaphor that was.
"I need to respect your rights. My overreach was the reason I lost you in the first place."
Vera was nearing the United States when her phone range again. Phoenix. What now?
"Clever, how you circumvented me. Getting a private jet. But you are no match for Mephistopheles. I cannot allow you to continue."
"What are you talking about. You're the one who got me the jet."
"No I didn't." Unless I had done it and forgotten. My mind was malleable. Would I force myself to forget something like that? Unlikely. A more probable scenario would be...
"Vera, the plane was sent by-" and then the signal died.
That was suspicious. Was Phoenix testing her? Running some sort of mental experiment? He was probably going crazy. Those cyborg elements were affecting his mind.
She landed at Logan airport early in the morning. She knew the villain's address. Phoenix had said he was hiding in one of Sabien Pallis' facilities. Near the outskirts of town.
She booked a cab. Bad traffic, followed by good traffic, followed by bad again. Phoenix's constantly swerving mind reversing his orders to traffic lights? Or just driving in Boston?
She paid for the ride in cash. She stared at the building. It actually did look grand enough to house a supervillain. She'd been expecting some abandoned-dilapidated factory. But this looked more like a national monument from a nation that valued sleek, industrial design.
On the way in, there were all manner of booby traps, security systems, and other inconveniences. But Vera was a pro. She got in. After a little bit of snooping, she found what seemed to be someone's home. Most likely, Mephistopheles. She heard a voice. Somewhere in the distance. "The raid on the Zoo was mostly a failure. But we did gain some important assets."
There was a pause, presumably while someone spoke on the other end. Vera tried to track down the source of the noise.
"Of course the Order of Darkness will remain. The loss of General Electric and Titan is only a minor setback. Especially since we shall soon return Jack Frost into the fold." The voice sounded strangely garbled. Not like Mephistopheles' usual speech.
He was behind a closed door. Vera slipped a camera through the threshold.
When bad guys take off their mask, they typically have a good reason. You don't just periodically do it in order to reveal yourself to the hidden cameras.
In Mephistopheles' case, the reason was dental hygiene. He was brushing his teeth. And talking on the phone.
But his face. It was one nearly everyone on Earth knew, and Vera more than most. It was Phoenix.
The door blasted open, and black tendrils bound Vera's arms and legs. She was so shocked she barely even put up a fight. "Excuse me," the villain spoke into the phone. "Something has come up."
He regarded Vera. She regarded him.
"What are you doing," she asked.
"You'll figure it out," Mephistopheles said. "Well, maybe you won't. But your cellmate will be happy to fill in the details. He's always loved explaining things to little minds."