In a back alley in New York, he finished absorbing his latest victim and opened new eyes. Tetrachromia, he noted with pleasure as the new ability sank in, quite the advantage for a sniper to see outside the spectrum. It made it much easier to hide his own abilities. He stepped away from the mess left by his meal, peeling some of the gunk off his feet as the new centre of balance took him a second to adjust to. The memories took no real time to settle, so he trawled the man's recent history, looking for details about what the marine had been doing.

Ah, shit. Ground Zero for a terrorist attack at New York. That explained all the troops but, as the stolen memories fell into place, it was irritating to learn they were already looking for a shapeshifter. That would not be a real problem. There was nothing on this earth that could manage his level of impersonation, down to the base level of the DNA. A minute with the right person and he could just walk out or, he grinned inhumanly, even have the people searching for him escort him out unknowing. That never got old.

Settling into his new persona, slinging the marine's pack onto his back with the ease of long practice, he considered the bioterrorists. Tracking down one of the people behind it and eating them for the data was tempting. Military conspiracies didn't last long when he got serious. He finished toying with the idea and discarded it as tempting but impractical. The form would make acquiring his next target more difficult, what with all the guns and bullets and marines. They were still at large, so a useful distraction but no real threat. No human-made bioweapon could affect him, and natural viruses did not stand a chance, so it wasn't his problem. His problem was getting off the island.

Happy he had the feel of the new musculature, picking up the marine's discarded rifle, he began the long walk back to the base. Lt John Anders had been deserting, but with his squad wiped out there was no one to report him. The lone survivor would return, report the horrific event, and get an officer alone for long enough for a truly indepth meeting. Buried under the borrowed personality, he let himself drift. He'd done the man a favour really. After all, no one lived forever unless he ate them.

Two blocks later, he was cursing human walking speed. This was going to take forever, or at least days he didn't have patience for. He listened hard, turning until he heard a tank's engine and grinned as his pace picked up. If they didn't give him a lift they would have a working radio, or better a careless crewman they'd take their eyes off. Almost stalking, he rounded the corner. He came into view at just the wrong time.

Inhuman reflexes kicked in, shattering the mask of humanity he wore as he threw himself out of the way. The tank landed where he had been, rolling, as its turret rotated still firing at something which landed on it, tore the armour open like a tin can. Screams rose. He slid behind a dumpster, concealed himself back in the trash, and watched as the thing with all the tentacles dragged a screaming soldier back inside and the man's body broke down into something obscene. The monster crawled out, onto the top of the tank, reforming as it did: jeans, a grey hoodie, a leather jacket, a human look. Then it jumped, weight slamming the tank into the ground as it took off.

In the alley, Vulture narrowed his eyes, watching the figure run up the side of the skyscraper and away. His plans to leave went abruptly on hold. There was something here he needed to get to the bottom of, and unraveling conspiracies was his thing. It was, after all, what he had been made for.

Authors Note: Prototype crossed with Rings of the Master (Vulture) from 1987.