Archimedes was lost to a catastrophe nearly a century ago. The citizens of the city could only guess their fate, but after decades had come to accept their isolation and their prison. But with the truth revealed, that their city was shrunk down and locked away, how will they cope with the world at large?
, Growing Woman
, New World Order Characters:
Brobdnignagian (51 ft. to 100 ft.)Shrink:
Lilliputian (6 in. to 3 in.)Size Roles:
F/f, F/m, FF/mWarnings:
December 10 2013 Updated:
January 03 2015
1. Nostalgia by Kusanagi
2. Setting the stage by Kusanagi
3. And the walls came tumbling down by Kusanagi
4. Pity by Kusanagi
5. The Sidekick by Kusanagi
6. Best laid plans... by Kusanagi
7. Chance at Freedom by Kusanagi
8. Pursuit by Kusanagi
9. Exposed by Kusanagi
The projector sputtered and crackled as grainy black and white footage with the accompanying background piano that made up for lack of recorded audio to match the video. Elliot, even after all these years, still found some magic in it as he watched from the back of the room with a grin slowly growing across his face. The children broke into a cheer as the title card came up; The Amazing Flying Fox! Hero of the City of Archimedes, the city of the future!
Not exactly subtle, but the bombastic quality had its merits. Darting across the screen the Amazing Flying Fox, or least a reasonable facsimile, struck a pose much to the delight of the kids. With his baggy flight suit (garish even when dulled by the black and white footage), his jetpack, and his of course his over-sized flight goggles he looked a little more like a comedian than a superhero. But it was a different time, and then as it still was now, if you had something as cool as a jetpack you could get away plenty of fashion faux pas.
Alongside the Amazing Flying Fox, Elliot felt if you didn’t say the whole thing it lost a bit of the magic, were his companions the Stalwart Society. Not as beloved by the kids, but they made great companions to their hero. Miracle, a man who’s mystic powers were practically divine, The Yellow Crusader (Elliot took the title cards at their word on that one) an avenging vigilante whose costume rivaled Flying Fox in sheer audacity, the lovely Mistress Talia whose costume was borderline inappropriate for the class in general, and the Mysterious Knight who reportedly wore a deep purple hood which made him positively subdued in comparison to his comrades. “The greatest heroes the world had ever known” the title card proclaimed, even if their role in most of these films was just to make Flying Fox look good. It was to be expected these were filmed and produced in Archimedes, and Fox was their hero.
The general tone of the class seemed positive. There was the occasional ‘oooh’, ‘aaah’, and cheer from the kids as Fox roughed up a baddie or three. Next to him was the teacher, Mrs. Brandt, who favored him with an appreciative smile. Elliot shifted his 6 foot frame and brushed back his messy brown hair. Subconsciously trying to look his best…even if he knew it was a wasted effort.
“This sucks!” A petulant sprout shouted from the back. To the determined shushes from the rest of the youngsters while the little troublemaker anchored himself spooling to take on his fellow prepubescents. The way they glared at the boy Elliot was sure this had been a sore point in the past. It could have escalated, but the child soon found himself carefully pulled from his seat by Mrs. Brandt. She was still young but was now what Elliot would call a mature 27. Her demeanor was professional and a lot more conservative than it used to be, though she did allow her red hair to grow out. Some of the fire had left her emerald eyes but none of the tenderness. She had a strict, if motherly, disposition that made her a quality third grade teacher.
“Now Taylor, why would you say something like that?” She said sternly just in earshot of Elliot. The boy looked from side to side; confidence wilting under the firm but gentle gaze of his teacher.
“But it does.” He mumbled defensively not meeting her gaze.
“Taylor.” Mrs. Brandt said with a hint of disappointment. Which gauging by the child’s response, probably hurt more than your standard punishment. Elliot knew that feeling all too well.
“He’s not a hero, my dad says he’s the reason the sky’s pink.” He said with whimpering defiance.
The teacher sighed, running a hand through the little boy’s dirty brown hair. “No he’s the reason we can still see the sky.” She corrected with a note sympathy. “Now go sit down.” She said gently nudging him back to his seat.
No one else spoke up, but for Eliot the mood had dipped. The kids, sans Taylor, applauded the finale as Flying Fox saved the damsel after she had been tossed right from the Capital Tower. They groaned in disappointment once the lights came up.
“Alright Kids, I hope you enjoyed today, because we’re getting right back to work on Monday. Have a safe and happy commemorative weekend.” Mrs. Brandt said, jovially clasping her hands together, and flashing a smile that caused Elliot to look away. The kids filed out, moods returning over the thought of parades, food, good weather, and of course, good old Flying Fox.
Once they had all departed Mrs. Brandt favored Elliot with a quick but sincere hug.
“Thanks for coming out again El. The text books aren’t nearly as thrilling as the serials.” She said gratefully.
“It’s my pleasure, kids should know their history, even if it’s limited to just this.” He gave a glance to the projector and the reels of film.
“Just this?” She said stifling a laugh. “There are people who would say these belong under lock and key in a museum, and you show them to anyone who will ask.”
Elliot bit his lip. “Well not just anyone.”
He threw the young teacher a puppy dog look. Favoring her with big brown eyes that once upon a time the teacher admitted she rather liked. Elliot wasn’t the most handsome man in the in the world but he’d like to think he could at least pull off average. Mrs. Brandt had the good sense not to feed him any good lines following that. She simply brushed back her hair; prominently displaying her wedding ring as she did so.
“Whatever do you mean by that?” she said innocently.
“Nothing Mrs. Brandt.” He said playfully putting an emphasis on the ‘misses’. Mrs. Brandt rolled her eyes but added no further comment on the blatant flirtation.
“So aside from saving young children from the grips of boredom what are you doing this weekend?” She said gently taking the topic into safer waters.
“Are you making suggestions?” He said with a leer, which earned a gentle punch the arm. He held up his hands defensively. “Easy, does Mr. Brandt put up with these hits?” That earned him another punch with a little more force added to it.
“Be serious. How’s your dad doing?” For a moment Eliot’s face turned somber.
“He’s doing what he always does this weekend, getting lost in the past.” He answered seriously, no longer meeting her gaze.
“It’s not that bad is it?” She chided, to which Elliot thought it over and shrugged.
“I don’t think it does any harm, but I’m not sure it does him any good either.”
She nodded. “If you’d like I could come by for a visit.” She pressed a finger to Elliot’s lips before he could get a word off. “To make sure your father has company.” Elliot sighed and gently removed the finger.
“I think I can manage by myself. It might not be the bonding experience it used to be, but it still matters to him.” Elliot said reluctantly, clearly not looking forward to just what that would entail.
She nodded, giving him what he could best describe as a blatantly platonic hug. “Still, try to have a good weekend. It’s always rough, but it will be over soon.”
“Thank you Mrs. Brandt.” He said now using the name in teasing fashion, but managing to keep his hands to himself. “I’ll try in any case.”
Elliot’s mood was briefly lifted by his best friend. It came back to earth the moment he stepped outside and the innocent words of that kid stabbed him anew. The day was really like any day. The same pink sky cast over the sprawling metropolis of Archimedes, the suburban, and farm land beyond. It was the same pleasant room temperature it always was, with nary a cloud in the sky, as it had been for nearly a century. A century since the day their city was cut off from the rest of the world and forever cast into isolation. The day the Amazing Flying Fox had saved their lives, but couldn’t save them from this new prison.
The anniversary weekend tended to look at the bright side. The majority of the citizens, including himself, now belonged to the third generation; children born to the children of those caught in the calamity. For the most part it was a celebration for none of them would be alive without Fox’s effort. But it was also a time of reflection. For the world they lost, and for the hardships they had endured in the years that followed; the resource shortages, the rebellions, and the bad old days, all those things that were put behind them now.
Archimedes was arguably in better shape now than it ever had been. Thanks to the collective intellectual might of some of the greatest minds of their time food was plentiful, unemployment was at all-time lows, and crime had been drastically cut back. But it didn’t make the sky blue, and for all their efforts it didn’t let them return to the world they had been torn from. If there was even a world to get back too, El reminded himself cynically.
Elliot’s phone ringing shook him from that depressing line of thought, the graying temples and slightly pudgy red face of his father popped up on his screen. “Speak of the devil.” He hesitated, but only for an instant, and answered.
“What’s going on Dad?” There was a disgruntled huff from the other end. His Father hated when he cut to the point like that.
“Not even so much as a hello.” Came the disappointed reply.
“Dad you know I’m on the way, you wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t important.”
“I need to show you something.” His father said with a joyous light in his face.
“Dad I’m already on my way.”
“Yes but I need to show you something ‘special’.” He put an extra emphasis on the word as if they were speaking in public.
“We went over this dad I’m not really interested in the ‘side projects’ anymore.” He put his own emphasis on ‘side projects’, and felt like a moron doing so.
“You’ll want to see this, trust me. You still know the entrance don’t you boy?”
“I could always just take the normal way in.” Elliot said without much enthusiasm, earning him a derisive laugh from the old man
“I respect your wishes on many things my son, but I will never approve of you becoming dull. Now come on don’t dawdle, and don’t bother with your usual gift cards and bottle of wine. I’ve heard enough platitudes about the weekend, and my wine cabinet is still better than anything you’ll find on the shelves.”
“Love you too dad.” His father hung up, perhaps as payback for the curt greeting Elliot had given him. The young man tried to look on the bright side; he didn’t have to stop by the corner store.
The streets were full of potential party goers. Like any holiday with somber tones it was only a matter of years before it turned into just another reason to celebrate. There were stands for food, a few different concerts, and even though it was only early afternoon it was a safe bet the bars were full to capacity. It made getting through downtown a hassle.
Opting not to be crammed into a tin can like a sardine Elliot decided on walking instead of public transportation. It took a while but he wasn’t in a tremendous hurry, and as bonus he could spite the old man. His lengthy trip also had the benefit that when he finally made it to his Father’s home he had a smile on his face. Even if he had been trying to be sour a city full of happy faces was contagious.
His father naturally wasn’t inclined to get the door, but Elliot had a key handy and was eager to use it. Here the idea of a mundane activity was generally frowned upon, and so even opening the damn door offered difficulties. Once he went to turn the key a telescreen opened in the wall with a layout of a hand. Rolling his eyes at the needless level of security he pressed his hand front and center in the picture. The screen mapped out his finger prints and correctly identified him.
“Front door access denied.” Chirped a robotic tone. “Storehouse entry preferred.”
Elliot narrowed his eyes, debating the merits of tearing the machine from the wall and then walloping his father over the head with it.
There was a time when he loved this stuff. It added to the mood, it added to the necessity, it added a hint of charm and whimsy to what was quickly looking like the end of their city, and given their circumstances, the world as they knew it.
But it wasn’t the bad old days anymore. The food shortages had ended, and while employment wasn’t 100% unemployment struggled to get past 6%. For the most part people were happy. So why couldn’t his father be happy and move on too?
He headed to the back more out of duty to the weekend than wanting to encourage his dad’s exploits. The name ‘storage room’ was a bit of a misnomer, it implied something technical while it was really just a place to study dusty copies of books his father could only be bothered to read once and couldn’t be bothered to justify their existence afterwards.
There were five rows, of maybe a thousand books in total, give or take a couple hundred. Still Eliot knew exactly where to go. He headed to the first row, and after a bit of searching found the book on ‘Daring Do’ published nearly a century ago. He pulled it with utmost certainty and wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised when the floor gave way beneath him. Elliot latched onto the fireman’s pole that awaited underneath and suppressed a joyful laugh. Alright he could admit this bit was fun, but he didn’t want his father to hold it over him.
The ride down was about thirty feet, enough for his good mood to turn almost giddy. It was hard to fight the intoxicating mix of nostalgia and excitement, but it was what needed to be done. It was for his father’s health, for his for his family’s health. He landed composed, a man on a mission, it was time to make a stand.
It was his father, Nicholas DeMont, that was waiting for him. He had hit his 50s but aside from a few modest pounds and a little graying of his hair you’d never know it. He wasn’t at his peak anymore, when he was an imposing six foot three mass of muscle. Instead he had to settle for incredibly in shape, and enjoy the shocked faces on anyone who found out his actual age.
He was positively bouncing at the sight of Elliot. The son crossed his arms and tried to look stern, but his father’s giddiness was positively hard to resist. At this rate Elliot wouldn’t be able to say what he needed too.
“My boy, my boy, do I have something to show you!” Nicholas clasped his hands together, eyes as eager as a kid on Christmas.
“Dad we’ve talked about this I-“ His father held up a finger.
“We have, but I want you to see this, as one engineer to another, nothing more.” His father held up his hand as if taking a solemn vow. Elliot would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested, and if he tried to decline his dad would just keep at it all weekend.
“Fine.” His father jabbed a fist in the air, unrepentant in his moment of victory. “It’s over here by the relics.” He said leading the way past an array of retired ‘relics’.
They were each displayed behind glass, arranged chronologically. His father, while appreciative of advancement, was always dismissive of his earlier work. The first case was still in pristine condition after all it wasn’t one of Nicholas’ designs. The metal black and shining, leather straps polished to the point where’d you swear they had just been freshly crafted, it was the wonder of its day; the original Flying Fox Jetpack. Alongside it was the garish orange jumpsuit that earned his grandfather the name fox from an astonished press upon his debut. Why they didn’t go with Tiger or something a little more intimidating he could only attribute to the era, or a lack of foresight.
Next to it were various other costumes and armors, each a technological marvel in their own right. Suits that did everything from enhance speed, to strength, and of course each had that trademarked jetpack. He paused, coming to a pair of smaller costumes blue and teal respectively. The teal one was slightly smaller and built for a more feminine build.
“How is Amy by the way?” His father asked delicately. Elliot pursed his lips thinking about the best way to respond. “Mrs. Brandt is very happy.” He said dryly.
“Feh I wouldn’t push your buttons if you didn’t make them so damn obvious.” Nicholas said no more though, and let his son spend a few minutes soaking it all in. Elliot spent the most time next to the blue and black armor he wore long ago. He eventually pulled himself from nostalgia to find his father had taken a seat while waiting patiently for his son to finish.
“Enjoy your once a year trip down memory lane?” The old man said with an ounce of pity. To Elliot it was equal parts, joy, nostalgia, and pain. Those had been great times, but those times had been hard times as well. He would never, ever, ask for a different childhood, while at the same time he would never wish it on someone else. He would never regret the actions they took, in fact, he was proud of them. If Elliot died today he would point to that as his crowning moment in life.
That however did not mean he wished to relive it, and that was the only option his father laid before him.
“This is why I called you here. Wear it or not it’s the pinnacle of my work.” On that Elliot would not argue.
The color scheme was what he had worn during the bad old days as his father’s sidekick. However the helmet did carry a bit of a legacy. It was of the same design as his father’s, and grandfather’s, Gold Soldier and Flying Fox respectively. In his career as a sidekick it had been a mock version of the two. Paying his respects but acknowledging that he was on not their level.
Just seeing this new version, expecting to carry on both of their legacies, it hurt. Not because he didn’t acknowledge the need, but because inside he felt decidedly unworthy of it. To have him think he needed to live up to the legacy was archaic and didn’t reflect him at all. He had moved on, this was past him now; at least that’s what his rational thoughts told him. Yet a primal part of him simply demanded he wear the mask now.
“Dad you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.” Elliot finally said.
His father huffed and waved away the complaint as if he was swatting a fly from the air. “I would have done it regardless I’m old, rich, and retired. Your mom isn’t around to keep me stable anymore, and you like to keep your visits brief.” It wasn’t an accusation as such, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting.
“If I don’t do at least this, I think it’s a one way trip to senility for me.” Nicholas finished in all seriousness.
“Dad you know that…” Elliot started lamely, for all their problems he honestly didn’t want to consider such a thing. His father waved off his concern.
“An active mind is a healthy mind, and I say the development of this is the most active I’ve been in a long time.”
Deciding to let his own issues go for a moment Elliot just looked over the work. “It’s impressive,” he meant that. He would love to see the schematics as there was only so much he could make out of the hardware underneath the aesthetic design, but from what he could tell it would put even the Gold armor to shame, “but why not one for Mrs…Amy instead?” He said, catching his Dad’s humored look, deciding not to give him any more ammunition.
“What do you think my next project is?” Nicholas laughed and clasped his son roughly on the shoulder. “But for now my work is done, and I’m going to sit back and relax.” He slipped just out of the work shop and came back with a bottle of wine and with two sparkling glasses. “Now do we want to go over all the usual bullshit chit chat, or do you want to cut to talking about your Granddad?”
Change is painful, there’s no getting around it. That was the conclusion Dr. Aaron Mutatio had come to, and it was a thought that would see him through to the bitter end. Of course that didn’t mean the pain would be equally shared, as the shop keep on the floor had found out. The poor lad sported a nasty bruise on his temple along with what was likely a concussion. The shopkeeper would live, and hopefully they’d get through this day without anything drastic, but sadly the good Doctor had long since stopped being an optimist.
The shop they were in was a modest, out of the way, business in one of the city’s oldest districts. Its contents were colorful remnants of the city’s once sparkling role in the ways of the world. But as there were fewer and fewer citizens of Archimedes that had actually seen the world as it had been, no doubt the demand for its trinkets died as well. The muscle Mutatio had brought with him seemed to share this view; looking only with disinterest and bemusement of the wares and goods that had long since lost their novelty.
“Doesn’t really seem to be worth anything boss.” Douglas, a bruiser of few words and fewer thoughts must have put a lot of effort into that sentence, and might have been proud of his keen observation. He was really a monster of a man 6’7’’ and a veritable wall of muscle. Douglas’ thick brow, nose that had been broken one too many times, and a smile that had its fair share of gaps spoke of a life hard lived. He wasn’t one of those savage types though as he preferred sticking mostly to breaking and entering and other theft rather than more brutish crimes. Douglass was an otherwise gentle soul that was driven to illegal pursuits, of which Mutatio could relate very well. Despite similar aspirations the two were physically opposites. The doctor was a slight man, nearly a good foot shorter than Douglass, his face untouched by scars or blemishes. He could almost be called youthful if not for the thinning strands of blonde hair atop his head. The doctor adjusted his wire frame glasses and peered into the dark, a smile creasing his lips.
“The best treasures are often hidden in plain sight my dear boy.” Mutatio said not unkindly, as he encouraged critical thinking, especially in those of which it was unexpected. “You see people like me, or at least those I used to associate with, have the nasty habit of never letting go of past accomplishments even when they really should.”
Douglas nodded along though Aaron was rather dubious if the man understood just what he meant.
“Why didn’t you use the thingy though? I wouldn’t have had to knock him about, probably wouldn’t have had to search either.” Aaron had been digging through assorted dusty baubles that likely hadn’t been looked through in years but rose at the question. Instead of telling the oaf to keep quiet, or ignoring him entirely, the doctor nodded.
“A fair question Douglas and I never care to keep those working with me in the dark. In truth while it would be convenient for us, and the poor shopkeep’s head. We are indeed trying to keep a low profile.” He spared the shopkeeper another look, and indeed he was still breathing which lightened the doctor’s mood. “The ‘thingy’ as you call it is indeed effective but will alert several to its misuse.”
Douglass seemed to accept this though he was still rather lost on what the doc was trying to accomplish, But the doc was one of those council types which meant the money was good at least, even though why a councilman would associate himself with one like Douglas was a mystery to him. That thought could wait for something caught the muscle’s eye.
“Doc, what did you say this key thingy looked like again?”
Aaron’s eye twitched at the repeated use of the word ‘thingy’, but any anger he had was quickly dispelled and replaced by a jubilant grin. Douglass nearly dropped the item as the Doctor took into a tight hug.
“That is it, and I dare say you may have worked your way into the history books!” Aaron took the metallic cylinder into his grasp. “Tomorrow shall be the first day of the rest of our lives.”
Setting the stage by Kusanagi
Finally cleared some room on my plate so this story will be getting a lot more focus from me. Next chapter should come much sooner than five months.
The night was what it was. Copious amounts of wine followed by a myriad of stories. The juicy bits that could fill novels: the battles, the affairs, the tech, typically in the first few drinks when the mood could be kept jovial. Then, a few drinks later, came the bits that would actually sell novels, focused on the four d’s primarily; the drugs, depression, dementia, death. The rest of the city celebrated the hero. Nicholas mourned his father. He was probably the only man left alive that really knew the man, and Elliot would be his ear for the night. He owed the old man that much.
His father slipped off to sleep at a modest time of 10 at night, and not feeling tired Elliot perused the lab. His father had a sentimentality his grandfather never did. Aside from the suit and jetpack Elliot’s grandfather kept a scant few press clippings and stories. It was hard to say if he was like that before the calamity or if it just another side effect. Maybe Nicholas, seeing what happened to his father later in life, was encouraged to keep mementos of all his escapades because of this.
Even with all of his dad’s stories there were things he didn’t immediately recognize. There were trophies, medals, destroyed armors, burnt costumes that were simply before his time. Then there were little knickknacks like playing cards, seemingly innocent wooden soldiers, things that undoubtedly had a story attached to them that Nicholas either never elaborated on or Elliot had long since forgotten.
Then there were the ones Elliot would never forget, as they were distinctly tied to his youth, and quite a few tied to old bruises and scars.
You’d never know it looking at the old armor as his dad had finished filling the bullet holes. It didn’t pay to have a sidekick that looked like they had been gunned down a dozen times or so, no matter how accurate that thought was. It wasn’t a knock on what his father had designed though, far from it. There were a dozen bullet holes that had left their mark out of the thousands that never so much had left a dent.
The bad old days had really been bad. Elliot looked on those days with nostalgia but still remembered the times they had to stich him up at the free clinic lest their secret identities be discovered otherwise. Auntie Helen is what he called the doctor there. She’d given him a lollipop after stitching his side. She’d give him two if she needed to pluck a bullet or shrapnel out. Didn’t matter that he was a teenager at the time, a lollipop’s a lollipop.
It occurred to him if he told this to a therapist his dad would likely be seeing serious jail time, but the thought of somehow punishing his dad never came to mind. Elliot had his problems with his father to be sure but it had nothing to do with the pain he went through as a child. When the government was failing, and hundreds were dying in the streets, that he only suffered an occasional shrapnel wound was likely a blessed childhood.
With some reluctance he turned away from the relic and walked the rest of the gallery.
The problem was that his father couldn’t move on, Elliot had. He spared brief look at the armor next to his old one and a briefer stab to the chest, but could acknowledge that Mrs. Brandt had moved on as well.
What made his father different? Was he just a product of his time? No, his mother was a product of their time. She was the only one in the immediate family not to don a suit, though Elliot wouldn’t have been surprised if there wasn’t a few monstrous mom armor, or fabulous fiancé battle suit hidden away in his father’s designs. She supported their efforts the whole way; working both as medic at home, and stalwart ally for them in the treacherous world of politics. When peace came to the city she retired and that was the end of it. She just wanted to live the rest of her life in peace and solitude. For the most part his father accommodated her, up until the day she died, and then it was right back to the drawing board.
Was the mission, even a defunct mission, more important to him more than Mom? It was a question he struggled with for years. Even now his devotion to the mission unsettled him. He came to conclusion though that it was his father’s coping mechanism. From here till Elliot was finally forced to bury him. his father would design, build, and probably revolutionize the defense industry in the privacy of his basement.
His introspective journey led him to his father’s latest project. He couldn’t look past the implications. What it was meant for, why it would be needed. Was it just an example of doing something because Nicholas just felt he had to?
There were certain aspects of the bad old days Eliot missed, but they were few and far between. The thrill, that intoxicating adrenaline rush, an addiction he regretted and resisted. That could be controlled, handled, his longing for just how close he was with his mother and father during the bad times couldn’t. They were the one family whose lives got worse as things got better.
Nostalgia plagued him more than most of his generation.
He looked to the new armor, had his father even tested it out? His fingers hovered over the helmet coming ever so close to just picking it up. His line of thinking progressing with every passing second. A quick jaunt around the city, for old time sake he told himself. He’d test it out, get the feeling out of his system, and probably make his dad happy to boot.
Considering his other hand was still clenched around the wine bottle he had all the reason he needed why that was a terrible idea. He was being silly; it was just kid’s stuff, something he and the city and had grown out of. Elliot poured himself a final glass and lifted it towards the armors direction.
“To nostalgia.” Eliot toasted before he forced himself to turn away and banish any other thoughts from his head.
Douglass wasn’t the brightest of sorts but every so often synapses would alight and grant the burly man a spark of insight. It came to him as he dutifully followed the Doctor through the heart of the city, or at least attempted to. Saturday was the height of the Anniversary weekend and the streets reflected it. Even for a man of Douglass’ stature, wading through a veritable sea of people proved a challenge, and the poor doctor following behind could only move at a snail’s pace. As such inspiration struck the brute. “Is today really the best day to do this Professor?” He didn’t like questioning the doctor as he felt it was a waste of the good man’s time. He always felt he would see the answers as obvious if he was even half as brilliant as the doc. “I mean, not to question, but aren’t there just too many people?” He said, politely making his way through the milling crowd. Douglass would smile and was happy to note most were quick to make way once they saw he was in a hurry. Gentle dullard that he was it didn’t occur to him that his looks took him farther than his manners.
“You’re not incorrect Douglass. I could possibly manage the same on a less busy day, and it would certainly increase our progress. However there is one quality that such a crowd provides. To illustrate whatever point he was attempting to make the good doctor began to dig into his bag. “Oh dear, it seems I do struggle with these dramatic reveals, a moment Douglass.” The wiry man said feeling flush in his cheeks as he struggled to procure the item from his bag.
Douglass nodded though still didn’t quite understand. What was the point of making it harder on themselves? Still questions aside it was a nice day, and even if the doc hadn’t needed his help he’d likely be out today, and if they kept along the route they’d at least get to see some of the parade. As Douglass rose to his tip toes to catch sight of what floats may be headed down the next street over Mutatio revealed his device with a flourish.
“Is that the thingy?” Douglass said taking a glance back. The doctor shuddered but didn’t correct him.
“Yes and I do believe it is time we used the crowd to our advantage.”
The sound of the television was an unwelcome one. Along with nostalgia, stories of grandfather, and the occasional bout of depression, the annual Saturday hangover was all part of the festivities. While the windowless workshop spared him the torturous light of the sun, there were some things that just couldn’t be avoided. One of course was that no matter how much his father had imbibed the night before he would always be a morning person.
“I will gladly hop into that armor of yours if you can just ignore the parade this year.” Elliot groaned burying himself under the covers that lined the surprisingly comfortable pull out bed. There were proper beds in the floor above but given how much he drank the young man didn’t trust himself on the stairs.
“And you so used to love the things when you were little.” His father noted with disappointment.
“That was before I realized there was approximately 2 minutes of entertainment in a four hour display.” Attempting to burrow under the sheets for some scant protection from the overly cheery announcers describing the beauty of overly adorned go carts traipsing at 5 mph.
“Well despite you not being in the festive spirit I can still enjoy a bit of tradition.”
“Can you enjoy that bit of tradition on mute?”
“Without your whining it wouldn’t have the same atmosphere.” The old man chuckled and Elliot resigned himself to a morning of such. Call it instinct, call it experience, but Elliot could tell without his father saying anything that something was wrong. Ignoring the throbbing in his head he tossed aside the covers walked to where his father was now watching the screen.
What should have been a garish display of civic pride was quickly turning into reenactment of some of the darker days of the ‘bad times.’ Up and down the parade route scores of people were hijacking and at times setting the floats ablaze. Perhaps far more unsettling was how quiet the rioters were. There was no shouting of slogans, no angry chants, just boring methodical anarchy.
“They’re being controlled.” His father stated without looking away from the screen. Elliot didn’t question it. While he liked to consider his instincts sharp, even if dulled by a few years of normalcy, his experience was nothing compared to his dad’s.
The older man tapped a finger to his lips in thought. Elliot could tell he was thinking through every would be thug with a lazer rifle or would be city conqueror he had encountered over his lengthy career as the ‘Gold Standard’.
After a moment he snapped his fingers and smugly grinned. “Master Cerveau, we had a few run-ins oh,” That grinned turned into a wince as the number of years became apparent, “well it was before your time anyway. Had this thing for mind control.”
“Old man back for revenge?”
His father waved it off dismissively. “Unless he’s orchestrating this from a nursing home I’d rather doubt it. He was up in years back when I was your age.” This caused his brow to furrow. “That technology is under lock and key with the council, no positive applications for it, well none that didn’t violate several civil liberties.
“Probably just some guy who rediscovered the science behind it. Surprised it doesn’t happen more often to be honest.”
His father nodded but didn’t look all too sure of that response but whatever questions he had were dismissed as he continued to watch the action unfold. More seemed to join the merry band of miscreants as they worked in unison to bring down a Santa Claus float.
“No.” Eliot stated. Not in response to the Jolly old elf being deflated but to what he knew was coming.
“I didn’t say anything.” Nicholas stated defensively. Elliot positioned himself so he could look his father in the eye. It only took a second to spot what he was looking for.
“You can’t even fit in the suit anymore.” He said, bluntly pointing a finger at his father’s midsection to which Nicholas took some offense.
Noticeably sucking in his gut the older man stood. “I have no thoughts of doing so,”
“Good the police will handle it.”
“but if I did I have made necessary arrangements.”
“Oh god does the Gold armor have a beer belly now?” Elliot was joking but only partially. If his father was crafting entirely new armors just to collect dust, modifying old models didn’t seem so farfetched.
“Not that I am going to do anything,”
“Because the police are going to handle it.” Elliot again interjected, though he could already sense it was like trying to push back the tide.
Nicholas gave a token nod of agreement while rummaging through various lockers, shelving, and storage units. Tossing bits of equipment, old blueprints, and the occasional moldy rag out of his way before stumbling upon whatever he was searching for.
“Still, you know when was the last time either of us gave this parade a visit, that official seal of approval?” Nicholas questioned, already trying out his excuse. Elliot was already in the process of accepting his father’s actions but wanted to see how far he would go.
“Think it was still a teenager.” Elliot said dryly, only perking a brow once his father had found what he was looking for. Despite the technical apparatus that were attached to it, it was unmistakably a girdle. His father favored him with only a slightly ashamed look.
“We live in peaceful times, over indulgence is a just a side effect we must deal with.”
“mmhmm.” There would be no stopping him and Elliot wouldn’t try. Even though Nicholas was getting up there in age if backed by the police this situation should barely take ten minutes. The city would appreciate it, the crowds would love it, and it would likely end this weekend on a high note. There was only one catch.
“You know what would go over really well?”
“No.” Elliot stated before the words were barely out of his father’s mouth.
“I can’t believe I raised such a wet blanket.”
“It’s your own rule. One stays behind to provide additional intel. Mom’s not around anymore and given your current state,” he said with a pointed look at the girdle, “I think it’s wise that you have someone looking out for you.”
Nicholas couldn’t very well argue this, especially since it allowed him to indulge without a hint of guilt, still there no denying that hint of longing.
“Well I’d love to have you out there.”
It was the direct appeal that held the most sway with Elliot. When his father beat around the bush it was so much easier to dismiss him. He hesitated in his answer before finally shaking his head. “It’d be overkill.” Elliot said without much conviction. “Besides if your fat ass can’t handle it the new Dynamo armor’s right here.”
His father couldn’t very well argue that either, but he could tell it was only a matter of time. Badgering his son would do nothing. Leading from the front however might have some merit.
“Alright, you know the monitoring devices. Standard take down protocol. Fast and easy, should be back before lunch.”
The good Doctor watched the scene unfold with mixed feelings. Watching the people scatter as those under his control ran amuck filled him with no joy. He had given precise orders, only general chaos and a hint of property damage, they were to cause no actual injuries. In addition aside from some token resistance he wanted none to directly engage the police. It wasn’t as efficient as it could be. With Cerveau’s device he could literally ask them to lay down their lives and they would without a word. It would certainly give him more time to do what needed to be done but his actions in the end were for all of their benefits. The citizens of Archimedes had suffered far too long for him to add significantly to their sorrows.
He even tried to console the massive Douglass as a beloved cartoon character was brought low by the mob. “It isn’t very pretty, but it could be a good deal worse, now are your friends where they need to be?”
Douglass didn’t take his eyes away from the float but did nod. “All at the council building though they’re not going to be able to get past the security there.
“Not remotely an issue my friend.” He pulled Douglass along away from the chaos. Joining the crowd as they hurried away from the scene and passed by the oncoming police cruisers who were headed toward the scene. Douglass gave an especially nervous glance at them. As someone who ran afoul of the law in the past he wasn’t eager to be on their radar again.
“You needn’t worry dear Douglass.” The doctor said as he fiddled with his sphere, it already pulsed with power, a dull repeated rhythm that glowed with a deep shade of magenta. With another press the pulse’s pace increased and its shade change to nearly pink. “The second stage is already in motion, and we shall be the last thing on the mind of the police.”
Lindsey’s head throbbed. It had been hard to focus all day, and considering just how little attention her job required it was saying a lot. If she was smart she would have just called it a day, but it was too late for anyone to take her shift and the facility always needed two people on file. The petite blonde pressed her hands against her forehead as if sheer force of will would drive the pain away.
“Hey, I think you might need this.” The only other person in the facility smiled down at her and offered her a cup of coffee. Nick was a new hire fresh out of college and looking for the best way to pay off his student loans as soon as possible. Government facility that was as demanding as watching paint dry seemed to fit the bill. He was fit, sporting short cropped brown hair, and best of all hadn’t been worn numb by the job just yet. Lindsey wasn’t afraid to admit she liked him.
“You’re a lifesaver.”
“What can I say, makes me feel more important than the rest of this.” He slumped in his chair propping up his feet. The monitoring equipment wasn’t picking up anything unusual, not that it ever did, Lindsey suspected it stopped working years ago and no one had quite caught on. Though there was that one time…the sharp pain that racked her brain felt like someone had stabbed her right between the eyes. Her coffee splattered across the linoleum floor as she clutched at her head. The pain fading a heartbeat later but she found herself exhausted.
Nick smiled in that way that always put her at ease. She was really glad to have landed this shift. Some of the others took their job as a matter of life or death. It was good to be paired with someone on the same wavelength was a godsend most nights. But even Nick’s cute lopsided smile wasn’t enough to ebb the pain this night.
“Perhaps coffee isn’t enough.” He said partially joking but empathetic toward her plight. She nodded dully and made her way toward the woman’s bathroom. Her shift had just begun and it was already too much. She thought about finding one of the many abandoned rooms and just resting her head for the rest of her shift.
She could barely find her footing as she stumbled down the hall, the headache was so agonizing she would swear her vision was blurring. She practically crumpled against her locker hoping to find something for her headache, but instead of grabbing for pills she found something somewhat more appealing.
There was her unused side arm. Standard issue for the facility though it had never been needed in all the time that she worked there. Lindsey stopped bothering to wear it as it made her uncomfortable, but as she ran a fingertip over the rubber grip she felt her headache lessen. As if by magic she knew how to make the headache go away entirely.
Logically it made no sense, she knew that, but at the same time she couldn’t help herself. Nick smiled once again on her return, only having a moment of surprise before the gun retorted twice with resounding finality. He’d never know why and Lindsey scarcely knew either to be honest. His body slumped to the ground spasming and with cruel detachment she put another bullet into his chest.
No she didn’t understand but it did feel right.
Somewhere in the back of her mind the rational part of her mind screamed at her but it was dismissed; the distant mental protests little more than a gnat buzzing in her ear.
The doors were a relic, never meant to be opened unless a miracle occurred, and yes her thoughts told her a miracle had occurred when the master had arrived. The Master! How could she have forgotten? The master’s will no doubt. She gleefully stood over the forlorn and ancient console and punched in the code. The light above the worn and rusted doors flashed green and slowly drew themselves open.
Immediately the room was bathed in a pink light. The only safety the rest of the world had from the remains of Archimedes. She should have been terrified at this prospect, horrified over what she had done. Instead she exited the facility and stood before the massive pink wall that contained the once prosperous city. Soon the wall would fall and her master would have need of her no matter how much that voice in the back of her head screamed.
“Boss? Boss?” Douglass shook the frail professor as gently as he could. Sweat perspired down his forehead in concentration as he clutched the pulsing sphere. Eventually Aaron looked up and favored the lout with a gentle smirk.
“I do apologize, it does take a bit more effort because…well it would be hard to explain, needless to say our back up has arrived and we are ready to begin."
Apologies if the story was a little rough my BEFL (best editor for life) is currently unavailable.
And the walls came tumbling down by Kusanagi
‘Back in the saddle again,’ Elliot couldn’t help but think. The command center could certainly use some dusting, but technically still ran like a dream. The layout screened displayed what his father was seeing, heart rate, and energy output. The young man had several different news feeds giving him a multitude of different views on the conflict and was tapped into police scanners across a two block radius. There wasn’t a thing he didn’t know about, and there wasn’t a thing that the ‘Gold Standard’ couldn’t handle. He was quite tempted to crawl back into bed. Though he couldn’t deny it all had a certain thrill.
“How’s she holding up?” With every bit of data streaming right in front of him Elliot really didn’t need to ask. However he placed far more importance on his father’s input. Data couldn’t tell him everything.
“The Girdle’s a bit tight,” was the sarcastic reply. Elliot fought a grin. Yep data couldn’t tell him that.
“I’ll give you ten minutes before that thing snaps.”
“Have this whole mess wrapped in ten.”
Elliot would call him cocky but it looked like the situation could be wrapped in five if the old man took it seriously. Of course this was a special occasion hardly the end of the world.
“Don’t forget to put on a show.”
For Mrs. Brandt it was hard to work up much more than curiosity to the growing chaos though her immediate company required it. She was a sheltered school teacher who shaped young minds, or at least that was the image she wished to portray. Getting caught in a full scale riot should faze her slightly shouldn’t it? Granted her students could be a little rowdy but this was a few levels above that. She dearly hoped Deacon hadn’t noticed her lack of dread.
Amy was quite relieved when her husband didn’t patronize her with saying it’s ‘going to be okay’ or worse panicking. You never really know how someone is going to react until something goes awry, and regrettably she had some high standards. While Elliot was never the most romantic sort, when she was a teenager she considered him the bravest person she had ever known. If Deacon had freaked the first place they would have visited after the parade was couples counseling.
It was one of the risks of trying something new. Deacon had been something dearly different than what she grew up with. For one Deacon was normal.
Deacon worked as a doctor at a small clinic. He wasn’t going to win Mr. Archimedes by any stretch, he had a bit of a paunch, could stand to work out more, and absolutely detested any meal that was just a salad. His hair was showing signs of thinning and his attire still needed a woman’s touch. Still he was a hero in his own way, defending the helpless against injury and illness, rather than would be super villains, and his smile could raise her spirits more than saving the day ever did.
She loved Elliot and his father, and they would always be family, but the two wouldn’t know normal if it bit them in the ass. Elliot certainly played at normal, but even years away from the job came across as eccentric. Amy’s one hope is that she didn’t come across as ‘different’ as Elliot was to normal people.
It wasn’t that she was shooting for average, though Elliot would say otherwise, she was just a simple school teacher trying to make it work with her simple doctor husband. Any thoughts of pummeling rioters with steel fisted might were distant.
Amy leaned on Husband both for appearances and that bit of comfort he could provide. She wasn’t remotely afraid, but he was an anchor, to remind her the bad times were over. That she had moved on and was in a different place. A place where watching wasn’t just okay it was expected.
They had ducked into a café joining other citizens in retreat that were now hoping to catch the action behind the relatively safety of a pane glass window.
Deacon pulled her tight, not to protect her but to take some degree of comfort from her as they watched a swathe of people go mad.
Still, though her day had been categorically ruined, Amy was a bit more assured in her marriage. She pulled him just a bit closer as she watched the floats burn just a hint of gold was caught in her peripheral vision. The mood in the café changed instantly and she could feel the cheer aching to erupt upon confirmation.
The Gold Standard, golden armor adorned with its crisp black trim. The body of the armor conveyed a statuesque presence that invoked something that would appeal to classic Greek sculptors. Its very presence conveyed power, conveyed might have been an understatement she could nearly see the power crackling off of it. The old man had made improvements in recent years.
While Amy’s review was technical those occupying the café with her had no interest in that rather a wave of nostalgia enveloped them. The hero of just about everyone’s childhood had arrived and even competent mature adults had begun jumping around like kids in front of Santa Clause, Deacon included. The old man turned, seeing them all, and favored them with a thumb’s up causing the crowd to give an immense joyful cry.
“Ah man this is way better than a parade,” Deacon said lost in the sudden goodwill.
Amy was just glad Nicholas had decided to get out of the house.
Mutatio felt a bit of nostalgia as he entered the lavish furnishings of the Apex Tower. From the ground floor to the peak of the grand penthouse above the building was a testament to all that made Archimedes great, past, present and future. The building was not only one of the seats of power in the city, with the Emeritus council headquarters far above in said penthouse, but housed many an aspiring scholar and intellectual titan who worked on furthering their knowledge with all manner of tests, studies, and experiments on the foremost cutting edge of science.
Mutatio had spent days and weeks studying at the feet of masters hoping that one day he might further aid the city of his birth.
With a heavy sigh he accepted that today was that day though it would go about in a way that he never would have guessed in his youth.
“Boss you okay?” Douglass said at his back. Concern entered the brute’s voice though the doctor waved it aside.
“I had a lapse of nostalgia Douglass, a moment of weakness, come along.”
In his youth he had never been popular, but did have a collection of colleagues and associates. Never friends though. He always felt too busy to maintain all but the most professional of relationships but those he fraternized with were the crème de la crème of his generation. The keenest minds, the sharpest wits, what would they make of him now if they saw his new colleagues?
The guards were quick to recognize an off situation as all twelve of Doctor’s associates, or rather Douglass ’associates, carried with them the grit and grime of hard living and stood out quite sharply against the almost sterile confines of Apex tower.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, no need for that,” Mutatio said gently raising his hands, even as his new associates walked in step behind him.
“Doctor,” one said in reserved polite terms, “you know you’re still on suspension and guests are limited to four at most.”
The Doctor briefly bristled at the mention of his suspension but didn’t let it show on his features. “That shall not be a problem, I have a release letter right here that grants me access.”
Perhaps if he hadn’t had a sterling reputation before his suspension, or perhaps if guards had just focused more on him rather than those who stood next to him, it might have made a difference. Regardless it only took a moment for the sphere to activate and for a few more to join Mutatio’s band.
“Now gentlemen if you’ll show us to the elevator’s we all have a meeting to attend.”
The collective of the armed willing and unwilling made their way to the elevators. Mutatio steps away from success still could find no joy in it. This was what needed to be done. Happiness played no part in it.
With little change in the seasons and no change in the weather it was easy for one day to bleed into the next in Archimedes and as such it becomes easy for a person to lose sense of time. It was a why celebrations such as this carried so much meaning. Remembrance Weekend functioned as something of a new year and even the council treated it as such.
It was the one time of the year when the members of the council could let their hair down such as it was.
The Council was one of four branches of government, and of the four arguably the most influential. Those that made up the council were some of the most senior and most respected members of their fields. It was an appointment that lasted for life, and the current youngest amongst them was expecting a grandchild in next few weeks. So unlike the revelry in the streets this occasion was rather subdued.
The only highlight was for once the standard issue of politics was put aside for a nice bottle of champagne. While they didn’t stand for election there was no shortage of power plays, backroom deals, and the occasional backstabbing. This weekend was as close as the council could probably get to being free of ulterior motives. Or perhaps it was all more subtle Devson reasoned.
Devson was the most senior member of the council, and with that age and experience had resources and pull that made him an intimidating figure. While being on the council carried only limited political influence in the grand scheme of things, he had the ear of all those that wanted a taste of power. There wasn’t a politician that didn’t seek his aid; there wasn’t a mover or shaker in this city that would move against his wishes. Of the council only the head minister, the public face of the council, rivaled him in power and she and he had an accord of sorts. He wouldn’t stab her in the back if she agreed to do the same. It was the closest thing to friendship for the man. Even in this joyous time with a glass of chardonnay in his hands and a grin touching his lips his fellow councilmen gave him a wide berth.
His will certain and his word law, so when Mutatio calmly entered their hall as if it was his right, Devson was noticeably taken aback. The man had the gall to even grab a glass of champagne.
“What in the in the heavens do you believe you’re doing?” Devson spoke quietly but there was an undeniable commanding tone that came with it.
“I’m giving you one last chance to admit you were wrong and admit before the gathered assembly about your sins,” he said after a sip of the bubbly. The rest of the council had gone deathly silent, though not entirely out of fear for Devson. While he was the undisputed head of the council there were still those that wished to replace him and those that were happy to see the man humbled now and again. Mutatio was a man of much potential, a seat on the council would like be his in a decade or two, seeing him lock horns with Devson was far more entertaining than idle gossip or that dreadful parade.
“You’re going to give ‘me’ a chance? Your theories were folly and insult to your predecessors. You’re belligerent attitude gave you a well-earned suspension and you should be grateful I didn’t make your embarrassing research public.”
“Well you don’t have to worry about that because I’ll happily share that with everyone here.” He turned to those accompanied and set his glass aside. “I know how to return us to the world beyond, and more than that I know what lies beyond.”
There was a moment of silence before gentle laughter began to spread through the room.
“Stop,” Devson began with a feral grin, not attempting to hide his amusement. “I tried to spare you this humiliation but it’s not too late to spare you more. You have your career ahead of you don’t throw it away chasing this dragon it’s broken many a man before you. Many a better man I might add.”
Mutatio had been smiling up until that last sentence, but on that utterance he openly scowled and strode in front of Devson.
“It’s those men that I represent today. Men who were browbeat and pushed aside, and made laughingstocks for their research when in truth the head of the council has known, and has always known the way out!”
If nothing else it was spectacular theatrics and had the attention of the entire council. Devson was, however, in no mood to entertain.
“Conspiracy theories now? I’ve had enough of this guards,” he began though the sound of automatic gunfire drowned out his words. Content to let the Doctor work they didn’t intrude until it was necessary, but once it was clear communication had broken down Douglass and his colleagues didn’t hesitate to act.
“Apologies ladies and gentlemen but we’re not leaving until my discoveries are brought to light.” He made sure to look directly at Devson, disgust evident on the doctor’s face. “And all sins made known.”
Whether it had been on advanced orders, or the ‘Gold Standard’ at his present weight resembled a parade float, the hypnotized masses began to turn their attention to the new arrival.
“Remember just civies you don’t need to-
“Boy I was dealing with mind controlled masses before your mother would let me hold hands with her.”
“Fine stylistic advice then,” Elliot said changing topics as soon as possible.
While his frame showed no outside emotion Nicholas gave a derisive sigh.
“You’ve got nets, bolas, and other restraints if I recall correctly.”
“And not a lot of time, they’re advancing.” He said calmly. Those mind controlled thankfully weren’t much if not given outside orders. Adaptation and recognition were just barely there so without direction they were little more than shambling heaps.
“Go with sedatives, one blow, remind them who you are. One shot, one kill, well so to speak…”
“I thought you wanted this to be dramatic>” The veteran hero already had his fists raised, and targets acquired.
“There’s the boss for that.” Elliot said with a mischievous grin. It’s not like he was mad at the person who had him working at 10 am on a Saturday, but saving some of the Gold Standard’s more esoteric weaponry for him seemed appropriate.
“Right then,” Nicholas said as the boots in his jets erupted, vaulting him a good ten feet in the air, and providing a clear shot at the shambling masses. There was not dramatic lightshow from his hands, or signature sound effect the public could latch onto. However over a dozen rioting individuals froze on the spot and slumped to the ground at once.
“The cocktail is seems stronger than I remember.”
“Trying to compensate for the passionate youth of today,” Nicholas said without much conviction, a nervous hilt in his voice.
“They’re supposed to just wake up with mild dizziness.” If he had known they were that strong now he would have used one before bed the previous night.
“Well it’s a holiday I’m sure they were prepared for a hangover.”
“Ten more incoming on your left, perhaps we should think of something that won’t cause any lasting damage? Just a thought.”
“Killing a few brain cells is just a part of being young and you should know that better than anyone.”
“Perhaps a more colorful display then?”
Nicholas brought his hands together, a growing energy gathering and crackling with potential between his palms. Once again lifting off the ground, more for the admiring crowd than any tactical purpose, he let the approaching mob gather toward him.
“Not that I’m worried or anything, but I will remind you incineration does not fall under the umbrella of non-lethal.”
“Trust my tools boy,” Nicholas said showing little patience for Elliot’s snark.
As the mob edged closer the Gold Standard sent the gathered energy toward them. Instead of leaving a nice pile of ash as Elliot joked, or even blow them off their feet in an impressive show of force, the energy coalesced into a binding force that swept over the mob and held them collectively in place as if they were trapped within the confines of a web.
“What’s my time?” He said continuing to prod. Waving to the crowd as the applause began below.
“4:50 mastermind’s still on the board though.”
“You can’t be including him in the ten are you?”
“Hey you said it not me, you still have five minutes in either case and there’s a disturbance at the council building. I don’t suppose you’ll need a map?”
“It’ll be wrapped in three,” The old vet grumbled.
“I don’t know what you hope to accomplish with this.” Though held at gunpoint by the young usurper Devson did not show sign of changing his tone.
“You know just as well that that device that’s gotten you this far will have no effect within the confines of these walls, and safeguards have been given to the police,” He snorted in derision the situation becoming more amusing the longer he spoke. “If the guards had been the least bit diligent you wouldn’t have even made it up here.” Devson shook his head with as much condescension and pity as possible for the man all of which Mutatio gave the barest of notice.
“This childish rebellion will be put down hard.” He sounded more like the demanding headmaster of Mutatio’s youth than a man in such a precarious position. It nearly brought a smile to his face. But only nearly.
“You’re undoubtedly right. They’ll likely detain the crowd and be on their way within a half hour or so. Considering I have the highest officials in the city at gunpoint the hostage situation could last hours.”
“Gold is in the city boy,” Devson said smugly, playing one of his cards just because he was held hostage did not mean his knowledge network was disabled, he awaited what he imaged would quite the reaction from the young doctor.
“Not wholly unexpected, change the estimate to perhaps a half hour.” Mutatio said without distress. “Still more than enough time to do what needs to be done.”
“Kill me you mean? Over your failures and crack pot theories? And then what? Is a lack of funding and suspension worth rotting in prison?” If Devson, or any attendance, expected Mutatio to falter they had entirely misjudged him. If anything he seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Funding?” He asked with mock confusion. “Oh! You seem to be entirely missing the point. I’m not concerned about the funding of my project, because I went and completed anyway.”
Only Devson reacted. While the guns barely warranted a scoff, this new bit of information left him clammy and pale.
“You what?” It was like they were the only two in the room, everyone else left in the dark and for the first time today Mutatio seemed to take joy in just what he was doing.
“I said I did it anyway,” He said slowly as if explaining to a child, “your funding would have made things easier but in the end a great mind prevails. I was sore about the complete rejection of my ideas without any exploration on your part but my success tempered any anger I had.” That joy quickly evaporated into another emotion. The violence, the riots, the coup, he handled them all dispassionately but with this he reacted with fury. “That is until I discovered just what that led to.”
Devson’s reaction was becoming noticeable to others, the thought that Mutatio may have been bluffing, if not outright lying had been the chairman’s hope. The conviction in his eyes told the older man differently. “You have no idea what you’ve done.”
“I know precisely what I’ve done, more so than anyone in this room. But that’s about to change because I know how to bring the walls down.”
All but Douglass and his associates reacted. There were shouts of denial, and even another bout of laughter, Devson however didn’t react with humor he just looked frightened. A reaction that was slowly realized by the remainder of the council.
“If you know so much you wouldn’t joke about that,” Devson said feeling quite ill
“Wait what is he saying? There’s no basis to what this loon is claiming is there?” The minister first content to be quiet for fear for her life, then feeling quite content to watch Devson squirm, could no longer stay silent.
“Preposterous! The greatest minds this city has to offer have worked this problem since its beginning there’s nothing that can be done.” Feeling the discussion more open another voiced their concerns, there were no threats and there was no brandishing of weapons. Mutatio seemed to welcome debate.
“That’s what I told myself gentlemen, when I breached the wall weeks ago I briefly marveled in my genius, but then I asked why did I succeed when others have failed?” He didn’t hid the vile glare he shot Devson. “I am not so arrogant that I am that far above my predecessors that I alone would solve it. No it’s much simpler than that,” He said with a gesture toward Devson who was now the subject of focus of everyone in the room.
“You don’t have the power to bring it down it was destroyed.” There were no pretenses here, no denial anymore. To Devson that all came second to reassuring himself that it was impossible. He would gladly take a hit to his reputation even expulsion from the council than face what Mutatio was suggesting.
“You knew there was a way to free us from this damnable prison and you had it destroyed!” The minister bellowed, ignoring the drawn guns and nearly bowling over Devson herself.
“There were reasons it had to be done, it had to be destroyed!”
“Your anger is well placed madam minister, but he once again is lying. I believe it’s all he can do now.” Mutatio said with eased candor of a victor. “Even in the darkest days one can’t abandon hope, apparently your predecessors had more faith in those that would follow than you do. Undoubtedly they told you about it in the off chance it might be used, but you would rather us all die in this hovel than have a chance.” He produced the key found the night before by dear Douglass. Devson reacted immediately pushing his way past the minister he made a lunge for the key only to be brought short by some of Douglass’ associates.
“Where did you get that?!” He bellowed held by the gunman easily enough.
“A great mind prevails, the one truth you ever told me.” Mutatio smirked, victory at hand he turned to the council and bowed.
“Madam Minister and the rest of the council, no doubt my methods have been harsh, and when this is over I will submit to whatever punishment you see fit. But given the corruption and lengths taken to see what every citizen has desired for a century denied, I do not regret my actions for an instant.”
From madman to revolutionary in the span of a conversation, murmurs amongst them all turned from what is to what may be. But eventually it all turned toward the Minister now without a doubt the one in charge. “Indeed.” She said solemnly.
“Don’t let this silver tongued devil trick you! He’ll doom us all.” One of Douglass’s fellows took the opportunity to forcibly gag the Devson, and no one protested.
“Councilman Devson it’s disturbing that the one coming off as a lunatic is not the one holding us hostage. As loathe as I am to conduct business like this, such a find takes precedence over all else. What do you need Mutatio?”
“If I’m not mistaken the device like the key was never destroyed, it’s likely still here and would match this design.” He produced a paper toward her and from Devson’s fraught reaction she had no doubt that it was real.
Upon looking at the design and didn’t know whether to laugh or feel disgusted. “It’s above the door to the senior chambers, to think it’s been there this entire time.”
“Excellent lets proceed now!” Almost giddy Mutatio nearly broke into a run.
“Mutatio a moment!” It was all proceeding so fast. While the Council may have been some of the most senior and learned of all the city’s populace. They were still only human. None, not even Devson, were alive when the city was last free. It was oh so tempting to ride this sudden wave. But the council was built and designed to be a bulkhead against sudden impulse, no matter how tempting.
“While Devson has done himself no favors with his outburst, I wish to know his concerns and the defense of his actions before we proceed.”
The gleeful look on the Doctor’s face vanished. “Surely you cannot take the word of a proven liar seriously?” His tone was reasonable but the gunmen behind her were now all too noticeable.
“I have no idea what drove Devson or the previous members of this council to hide their findings, or if there is any merit to what they’ve done. You are to be commended for the exposure of this atrocity and even with your actions I would suggest the utmost leniency given the circumstances.”
“But?” He spat.
“There is no need to be in a rush, there’s no deadline here, you have given us immeasurable news and while I to wish to act there’s no sense in acting rashly when we are so close.” She smiled perhaps thinking she was offering reassurances, that she would be able to reason with him, that this was all a disastrous mistake and that it would soon be resolved. The perfect cap to the centenary a new beginning, a miraculous new beginning!
It was not to be.
“I do apologize for my actions Madam Minister, Douglass.” The brutish man grabbed her from behind and gripped her tight. Her protests silenced as a burly hand wrapped across her face.
“We are operating on a schedule, what has been put in motion cannot be stopped.” Motioning Douglass to follow, the Man’s expression hardened and there would be no bartering with him at this stage. Douglass cohorts tightly encircled the remaining council including freshly gagged Devson. Making sure the doctor wasn’t given any further interruption.
Dire, the last thing he wished to happen, and in his heart he knew what came next. The glass windows shattered inward with a deafening almost righteous sound. . The Gold armor floated in like an Archangel from heaven, ready to deliver judgment.
His guards flinched at their first hint of opposition, and some faltered outright. They didn’t get a chance to do much else. As one they were targeted, and as one the armor put them down to sleep with a volley of the potent cocktail. Only loyal Douglass holding the minister was spared the immediate knock out.
“Was that even ten minutes?” Mutatio asked with almost a hint of admiration.
“Don’t have much time to dawdle at my age.”
“Douglass, the Minister if you please.” The brute quickly passed her to the Doctor, Mutatio’s grip on her wrist perhaps fiercer than Douglass’ own. “He needs to be occupied for just a few minutes more,” he stressed ‘ minutes’ though given how he dashed away from the minister it was likely he expected less of his henchman.
“I’d rather if you stepped aside son.” Nicholas spoke trying to give the younger man an out. Years of fighting the worst this city had to offer gave the old man an insight on what a man was. When he looked at Douglass criminal, gangster, killer, didn’t cross his mind. Zealot did. This man wasn’t a bad sort, but he believed, and that made him dangerous.
Douglass looked like he wished this too but raised his hands as if to defend himself, any hint that the brawny thug was going to be easy as his compatriots vanished as Nicolas recognized the gloves that henchman was wearing, confirmed a heartbeat later those meaty fists of his began to glow. Energy crackled with a reddish hue and it was quite obvious that the Doctor had not contented himself with stealing only one prize from the vault.
“I think I remember this one…’Count of Monty Fisto?’ That man wasn’t all there,” Elliot quipped over the line. His father might have shared in his musings if didn’t have to dodge an unnaturally powered fist.
“I’m sure dodging isn’t exactly necessary.”
“If you remembered the Count you’d also remember I ate my meals through a straw last time he landed a clean hit to my face.”
Instead of a reply there was only the sound of chips being scarfed down on the other line.
“You’re enjoying this!”
“Am not,” Elliot said with his mouthful.
Douglass made a lunge which Nicholas easily sidestepped, the man’s fist plowing into priceless marble statue and shattered it with merely a glancing blow.
“I’m starting to feel this fight might take more than a minute.” Elliot teased to both the drama was strictly limited to a mad scientist that had stolen a few toys. A larger narrative didn’t even occur to them.
Douglass pursued him relentlessly throwing lefts and rights with reckless abandon. The man was determined and was undoubtedly loyal to the doctor. However as a fighter his talents were limited muscle and size. While the gloves gave him unmatched striking power they didn’t give him the skill to make himself a true threat. The previous owner of those gloves had been a trained boxer. Douglass meanwhile looked like he picked up most of his skills in bar room brawls.
“No,” Nicholas stated as Douglass made a clumsy lunge. As the man overextended and left himself open the Gold Standard delivered his own blow to Douglass’ midsection, though practically made of muscle the man folded over in pain. It was a testament to his strength, and perhaps his resolve that that wasn’t the end of the fight right there. Biting back bile, and struggling to his feet he went to raise his fists again only to give a startled cry as both of his hands blossomed with fresh pain. Nicholas, well aware of his time limitations, fired two low level shots at both of the brute’s hands with less than friendly version of the energy he used before.
Low level being a relative term, was more than enough power to leave the gloves disabled and Douglass hands in a great deal of pain. There was still, however, that look of defiance in the brute’s eyes.
“The doctor said a minute and I can last a minute!” He roared, though not the sharpest knife in the drawer it was clear Douglass didn’t care much for his chances either. While deceptively fast for his size Douglass was leagues below the ‘Gold Standard’ and the hero thankfully ended the fight with one punch to the larger man’s jaw; the blow knocking him flat to the ground in an unconscious heap.
“You’re getting soft in your old age,” Elliot’s voice chimed in.
“I respect a man that knows his limits and tries to overcome them,” Nicholas said turning to find where Mutatio had disappeared to only to find Devson already pulling him along; the elder statesman unceremoniously ripping the cloth from his mouth and speaking in desperate tones.
“No time for banter or quips we need to go now!”
“Where is it?” Mutatio was a mix of eagerness and frustration. He yanked the minister along and it was clear his restraint dimmed with his growing impatience.
“What is your rush, and why do we need to move now?! Until you can give me a rational explanation I won’t dare help!”
The words died on her lips as she found the edge of a slender blade pressed against her neck. “I take no pleasure in this Madam Minister, but you and I are out of time. I don’t act against this city, or its people, but those outside will not look kindly on what has happened today.”
“You’re not making any sense!”
Despite himself he had to chuckle. “No I suppose I’m not, but you have two options, you help me and it will all makes sense in a moment. Or-” he pressed hard enough just to draw blood, “I damn myself and you die knowing only that this city died because of your hesitance.”
Her voice never betrayed her. No matter her curiosity she could recognize the eyes of a madman. Whatever Mutatio had done, whatever he had been through he was not the man he once was, she could not willing help him and regretted that her curiosity had even brought him this far.
She could not prevent reflex however and as the blade pressed against her neck her eyes briefly darted to the prize he sought. An ornate shield, decorative, dare say pretty, but not one people gave more than a passing glance to. Not enough to notice that though it was covered with multiple thick protruding points that it seemed that one was missing.
Despite his growing madness he instantly caught her gaze and followed it and instantly recognized what he was looking at. “I do wish to apologize Madame Councilor the last days have been stressful. You’ll see though, even if you do not forgive my actions, you’ll see I was right.”
Whether he said it for the history books, posterity, or perhaps just convince himself of his actions would never be clear. His steps were confident, and his stride without falter. If there were any regrets within him they did not show.
Everyone in city, from now until the day they would die, would remember where they were at that very moment when the key was inserted and turned. It was the temperature first they noticed, a city and a people who throughout their very lives had never known the slightest natural chill, shivered under the first breeze in nearly a century. This, of course, was nothing compared to when the sky began to turn blue. Rays of sunshine cascaded down with serene warmth that had been denied the citizen of Archimedes for a couple generations.
Rich and poor, civilian and even hero, paused and gazed up at the sky in absolute wonder.
Only Elliot’s voice could tear his father away from gaping outside the council windows. “What am I seeing?” His son, buried within the confines of their hideout, could only see through the armor’s eyes.
“A miracle.” Nicholas whispered as if it would all vanish at the slightest provocation.
“An abomination!” Devson may have been the only one in the entire city who gave not the slightest pause to their sudden freedom. “Every life in this city and the billions outside need that wall back up now!”
“You’ve already exposed yourself as a fraud Devson!” One of the council spoke tearing his way from the miracle. “You knew this would happen.”
“That and a dozen things besides, but we need to move now before,” He began to shout back but was not allowed to finish.
The barest of tremors interrupted him, before Nicholas could dismiss it as fantasy alerts lit up under his helm. There were tremors, numerous instances, emanating from close by and getting closer.
“Something serious is happening,” Elliot said providing the understatement of the century.
Acting in concert with the tremors the screams from below soon followed. With growing horror everyone in the council searched to see if they could catch a glimpse from the windows. Even Nicholas only managed to avoid succumbing to base instinct.
Elliot not so limited scanned the television signals. Static reigned supreme but for sounds of horror and panic, tension gripped him until he finally found one feed that was still active.
“We can only speculate but it seems to have come out from whatever was holding us in we,” static absorbed the screen again leaving Elliot hanging on hoping for the visual to return.
When it did he breathed a sigh of relief only for that sense of peace to be shattered as the camera focused on one of the abandoned floats obliterated by what he could rationalize as a gigantic boot.
The cameraman, bless his soul, kept the eye on the action as it followed the movement. As it moved away the camera caught more of just what it was, what she was. A gigantic woman at least ten stories tall was making her way down main street as hundreds of civilians not scared off by possessed rioters finally gave up the ghost on the parade.
“Dad,” He said finally finding his voice. “I think we can stop treating this like a joke.”
Woo finally got to the giantess content now things should move just a little bit faster.
Just a moment after the key was turned there was a witness set apart from those within Archimedes, and while they experienced undue wonder she mostly felt nothing except for her desire to serve. Lindsey should have been terrified, horrified, not only in what she had already done but what she was doing. Yet she felt strangely at peace as the massive force field gave way and revealed the sprawling city of Archimedes.
It would have been entirely intimidating if it had been to her scale.
Under another set of circumstances it would have almost been whimsical, an entire functioning city scaled to dollhouse levels. The part of the city she entered was decidedly older and only the largest buildings managed to reach her hips. What wasn’t remotely whimsical was this was still a heavily populated point in the city which was reacting as you might expect to a colossal woman strolling through the streets.
Lindsey didn’t want to be here and she certainly didn’t want to be on a quasi-rampage. Her orders were clear enough, even if she didn’t understand any of the why behind it, but the haste put behind the order didn’t give her the luxury of being careful. Each of her steps tore into the pavement with her stride leaving craters and panic in her wake.
She could see the streets being evacuated but they had been packed when she arrived and the pace she was required to move at forced her into something just short of a run. Lindsey was trapped in her own body and the most terrifying thing was that no matter how logically horrified she was it felt good, and there was nothing she could do to stop herself or the despicable feeling. She could feel the impact of each footfall, she could hear screams cut off, but thankfully she could not see what she left in her wake. As her eyes were trained on largest building in the city, one of the few that actually towered over her the order very clear, she had some climbing to do.
Gold and Devson reached the chamber to find Mutatio waiting. He had made no attempt to flee, but at the same time showed no signs of triumph or signs of regret; the man only had unyielding sense of calm. The minister like most others in the city was in a mixture of bafflement as what to do next. She sat some distance in the corner. She was no longer a hostage and merely a witness.
It was Mutatio’s insufferable calmness that nearly drew Devson into a rage. Only the gold plated hand of Nicholas stopped the councilman from lunging at the usurper.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?! Do you know how many lives you’ve put in peril?!”
Mutatio seemed to ignore him eyes instead trained on the Gold Standard.
“I hope you weren’t too harsh on Douglass, his heart was in the right place,” he calmly said to the hero.
“Are you even listening to me?!” The councilman thundered but was once again ignored.
“He just wanted to put this all into motion, just like myself, it had to be done and it’s too late to turn back now,” Mutatio continued unabated.
Devson was about to go into another tirade when Nicholas stood forward.
“Turn back from what?”
Mutatio smiled acknowledging the question causing the councilman to impotently bristle.
“There are enemies at the gates, there always have been, those who wanted this city wiped off the map and erased in its entirety.” He took a sip despondently from his champagne glass that through the chaos he had once again found. “They left us to die in here, to starve, to fight it out like savages until there wasn’t one of us left alive,” he raised a glass to the hero in a genuine salute.
“If it wasn’t for you and yours this city would have died and those outside would have their peace.”
“That’s not the whole story.” Devson hissed no longer attempting to talk to his young charge.
“It may not be the whole story but it is the outcome. What was a partnership died years ago and on your young watch I believe,” Mutatio said acknowledging Devson only to twist the knife before turning back to Gold. “As you did in the ‘bad old days’ we must take our salvation into our own hands.”
“You still haven’t said just what is coming through.”
“Can’t you hear it? No I doubt you even need too, I would assume you know what’s out in the city at this very moment.”
Elliot had patched the news feed to his father moments earlier. Nicholas knew not only what was in the city at this very moment, but where it was headed.
“But that’s not an anomaly, that’s not some monster, some accident, that’s the world outside of Archimedes now.”
The doctor nodded as he noticed the hero tense. “We face long odds my friend but we can very well strike back against them!” The passion once again returned to the Doctor’s face as he tried to implore Gold to action. “Indeed the plan is already in motion. In a week’s time Archimedes will be free of threats and you can go back to your retirement in peace.”
“And how many will die in that time Mutatio?” Devson said finding a hint of chilling calm. “Neutralizing threats? The entire damn world is a threat! Billions of individuals that can each wreck undue havoc on us all and you say this is something that will be resolved in a week?!”
The two stared at each other, what was once distant rumbles grew steadily louder as the giantess made her way ever onward to this building.
“I have my weapon,” Mutatio said. He did, and he didn’t mean the way he had been mentally manipulating others.
“She’s your slave right now.” Nicholas said with undisguised ire.
“Coming right out with it? A bit different from your strategy of pretending to know nothing.”
The rumbles had turned into detonations rocking the building more with each passing second.
“You know who I am and you know how I work,” Nicholas spoke in a way that left no room for dismissal. There wasn’t snarky side commentary from Elliot and there was no quick comeback from Mutatio. The doctor seemed to at least process the words and take them seriously.
“Believe me when I say that I want no one to come to harm…”
“People are already dead.”
Mutatio didn’t dismiss or deny the claim and he couldn’t just shake it off. It was more that the doctor absorbed it, took it into himself, just another sin for the docket. He was a man that acknowledged with all his soul that he was going to be damned before this was all over and couldn’t let the minor details of his sins stop him. “It’s for the greater good, but somehow I believe you’ve heard that before in your escapades.”
“Don’t talk about the greater good while there are corpses at your feet,” Nicholas spat.
The two stared even as the building began to shake. Mutatio’s expression could only be described as disappointment. “I don’t want to fight you.”
With the following tremor of the building Devson lost his balance. “We’re putting that shield back up until this is sorted out,” Nicholas said to the councilman.
Mutatio posture stiffened but he showed no other interest in the command. “You might find that difficult.” He gestured to the remains of an item on the floor and Devson paled further as he recognized it for what it was. “Devson may not have been able to do the deed all those years ago but I had no such hesitation. It’s now sink or swim gentlemen.”
The building shook further as the towering beauty no doubt arrived. Mutatio’s grim expression gave way to something of a grin, emboldened that Gold had not yet moved against him.
“I’m not going to lie this isn’t something I look forward to. The task I’m going to embark own will be perilous but it is one that must be taken. With your help Gold the chances of our survival, this city’s survival, would be in a far better place.”
“If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be in this place.” Devson practically whimpered. The foundations of the building groaned under a sudden new weight. Gold could see they were going to have a visitor very soon.
“Perhaps not now but it would have been soon and we would be on the defensive! This is our one chance! This-”Mutatio’s words died in his throat as Gold raised a glowing palm toward the doctor.
“Councilman, grab the minister and the device and head toward the center of the building. Our top priority is repairing that device.”
“So you will fight,” Mutatio’s voice was weak as if suffering some betrayal. Surrender though was not in the cards. “Just because I don’t want to fight you does not mean I won’t.”
Devson found some bravado now that he had backing once again. “Do you know who you’re talking to boy? Have you seen what he’s done to your lackeys?”
“Councilman, leave,” Gold said more sternly.
“Do you think that giant is coming here out of coincidence?! The only reason I haven’t acted is I have no idea how that thing is going to react if it slips out of his control!”
“You really don’t do you? And at this point I’d doubt you’d believe anything I have to say,” Mutatio said earnestly.
The building rocked and shook, cries of panic could be heard throughout the floor.
“You should help them you know. I meant what I said that I would vastly prefer not to fight you, and though it’s not my intention people could still very well get hurt.”
“Better to deal with the source right now rather than give you time to do anymore damage.”
“I don’t like your odds my friend,” Mutatio smiled sadly.
From there it all seemed to happen in slow motion. Devson was scrambling going to shake the minister from her stupor while at the same time scrambling for the device. Mutatio braced himself, not for what Gold would do but for what was coming. Gold watched the outward news feed and prepared himself.
Even logically knowing what he would face did little to prepare him for the real thing. With a sudden heave and lurch of the building he found himself staring into two titanic icy blue eyes, framed by a pretty young face larger than a billboard. Devson and the minister hadn’t made nearly enough progress, and suddenly stood frozen. The only one who could form a decisive thought was Mutatio; quite unfortunately for Devson.
“I want to show you something that I hope will cause you to reconsider.”
The glass windows exploded inward as her tanned fingers pushed through the glass and reached for the Councilman. Perhaps realizing what was to come he shoved the device into the Minister’s hands and pushed her forward just before those immense fingers gripped him.
“We face an overwhelming enemy, and we are quite fragile…”
“Don’t you dare!” Nicholas yelled though he knew his plea was in vain.
It all seemed to happen at once. Devson’s terror then acceptance, the fingers drawing the councilman into a gentle fist, Gold gathering the energy and then firing a blast at Mutatio willing to risk the will of a freed giant. In an instant his thoughts proved moot. Before the blast hit the doctor it met resistance as if slamming against an invisible wall two feet from the mad doctor’s frame.
“Did you really believe I would only steal one device for myself,” he said dryly. “Now onto the matter fragility.”
Devson shut his eyes, and Gold did the only thing that he could think of, aiming a blast at the giantess herself. Only to notice the obvious purple tint to her eyes the same that all those controlled shared. She was just another victim in all of this and for that reason Gold hesitated.
Her fist clinched tightly.
It was over in a heartbeat. The councilman died and the gore dripped through the giants’ fingers.
“For all the sins he committed against Archimedes, a just punishment.” He may have smiled it was impossible to tell as he was engulfed by the raw violent energy that Gold directed toward him. Mutatio’s shield once again served its purpose saving him from being torn asunder by the blast but the sheer force blew him back out of the entrance his giantess had made.
Seeing her master in danger the titanic beauty reached out to grab him buying Gold a moment’s reprieve. He went to where Devson’s body had been dropped however it only took a cursory glance to reveal there was nothing left to save.
“That wasn’t befitting a man your age,” Mutatio called from outside held aloft by his prisoner and weapon.
Any sympathy he had for her was put on hold as her massive fist punched through the wall a second time and tried to grab him. Nicholas managed to avoid her flailing grasp and threw himself through the opening. While she was clinging to the building he had the distinct mobility advantage and put some distance between them before another swipe could send him plummeting toward the pavement.
“How are evacuations coming?” The last thing he wanted to do was engage the titan only to send her sprawling into a crowd of civilians.
“The streets are clear but there’s no way of knowing for the surrounding buildings.” Elliot’s humor had departed entirely it had been awhile since he had an excuse to be that serious about anything. “You’re going to have to find a way to take her down. Those shields he’s using aren’t anything minor you’ll have to focus all your energy on him to bring him down.
“Or I can go focus on him from the start out and take out his mind control device.”
“And leave a giant, almost certainly pissed, woman in the middle of downtown.”
“According to you I’m going to have to take them both out anyway, so why not start with the one that deserves it?”
Elliot bit his lip. He had heard every word of the exchanges between Devson and Mutatio. Neither gave him the impression that the giantess in question was particularly friendly and he wasn’t eager to see what she would do with a degree of free will. Still it might just be easier to take than that shield than take down the giant. More so he could already sense a growing hesitation within his father. He had joked previously when he said his father was going soft, but it ‘had’ been years since he wore the suit. There might be truth to the statement, and if there was it could get him killed.
“We might not need to break the shield. If you can keep him occupied it might break his concentration and break his hold on her.”
“That I can work with.”
Mutatio looked as if he might have a few more placating words to say, but Nicholas quickly proved he wasn’t in a listening mood. Once again he rained down energy on the doctor’s shield, though now held in the palm of his slave there wasn’t as satisfying outcome this time around. Mutatio held his ground and he had the giant’s full protection. She let go of the tower and landed on the pavement below with enough force to cause a minor quake. Impressive though it may have been it didn’t make her any faster.
Like a bolt of lightning Gold struck from the sky impacting heavily against the Doctor’s shield and once again knocking him from her grasp. A brief moment of panic gripped Mutatio as even though they no longer reached the tower heights the fall was still a good six stories. His impact with the ground was only slightly less impressive than his giantess captive, and though the shield took most of the punishment both he and it were showing signs of strain.
Gold didn’t hesitate dodging another vicious swipe from the titan and then making a strafing run and the prone Mutatio. Though his mental grip on his behemoth slave never faltered, frustration began to gripping the Doctor as the shield began to thin and wane. For all his intellect combat was a new experience for him.
Like Douglass before him while Mutatio had the tools to be dangerous experience was another matter. Compared to Nicholas he was a hopeless novice. If the battle had solely been between the two of them it was doubtful it would have even been considered a fight. Indeed Douglass may have proven a more capable challenge.
But this was hardly a one on one fight.
Because of the great divide in speed and mobility the giantess had played little more than a distraction to Nicholas’ efforts but, no doubt on Mutatio’s orders, she suddenly draped her body as productive human shield over the doctor. The concussive energy that had been raining down on her master she now took the brunt of, and though her ponderous size took it far better than a normal person would there was no doubt the resulting defense caused her a great deal of pain.
If he ignored it, with her sacrificing herself for Mutatio, he could incapacitate her and focus on the doctor. With a normal person he had more than enough experience to differentiate between what was enough to take down and what was enough to kill, but with her…
He was not so perfect where he could claim he had never taken a life, there had been times when he truly felt there had been no other way, and those moments haunted him. If he kept this up he wouldn’t just be taking a life but a hostage’s life. It was only a moment’s hesitation on Nicholas’ part, a moment where he his mind was on the victim and not the perpetrator. It however was enough.
The backhand from her wasn’t precise but with her size it didn’t need to be. She only grazed him but it felt like being clipped by a bus. The gold armor tumbled through the air struggling to stay aloft while idly aware that Elliot was screaming in his ear. When Nicholas finally righted himself it was just in time to see a fist nearly as tall as him, and twice as wide, barreling down on him. He braced himself but he might as well have braced for a building falling on top of him.
There was blackness, pain, and a sense of acceptance. Incessantly that voice in his ear persisted, growing louder and more impatient before stopping all together. It was the silence that finally drove him awake and despite his body’s wishes he opened his eyes. His body wasn’t broken, the armor took care of that, but it was bruised and quite heavily in fact. He looked up into the incredulous face of the giantess.
She was pretty, he thought in the midst of his delirium, the face of someone who worked long hours but one that could still have fun later. He held no ill will toward her, no hatred in his heart; he reserved that for the man on her shoulder.
“It should never have ended this way. Not in my darkest dreams.” Mutatio sounded sincere but he made no effort to help.
“I have to ask you a question and I need a sincere response. Would you still attempt to stop me if you could?” There was concern in his words, pain in those words. It wasn’t an act, not an illusion. Mutatio genuinely cared about his about the answer. So the half beaten hero answered with a smile.
Mutatio bowed his head as if to hide his expressions to the world. “Indeed, I am sorry then.”
The next fist came like some ill-founded divine judgment. There was no bruising this time more like a mass break that left Nicholas mind reeling as the pain took hold of his sanity. He lived only due to the armor and even then, with all his engineering prowess, he could not have foreseen having to take so much abuse. Another blow would likely kill him.
Nicholas wasn’t going to be able to escape. I figured Elliot would be right. He had been tempting fate just by putting the suit on again. It looked like this would be the last time.
Over the pounding of his skull he could he the repeating beat of gunfire. A distraction no doubt from a now mobilized police unit, they no doubt were not going to be as soft hearted and foolish as he was, but from experience he could tell just from the sound that they weren’t firing with anything with enough oomph to bring her down.
A distracted, almost numb voice commanded she scatter them and with a profound crash and a rising cry the gunfire quickly stopped.
Nicholas tried to force himself to his feat but struggled to even keep his eyes open. He was embedded in concrete, a crater of the giant’s making. His suit angrily sparked, only hitting at the internal damage it suffered. While his ribs screamed bloody murder at even the thought of rising.
High above the giantess face appeared in the hole she had made. Out of time Nicholas realized. He looked into the possessed gaze of the giant, and thought even though it led him here that he still felt an undeniable pity toward her. He tried to work his mouth, maybe give her a degree of reassurance, maybe a final quip. All too late he realized.
“I hope you’re not giving up already after the trouble I’m going through!”
“No, no, no…one second.”
Mutatio suddenly came alert, the giantess head turned to her left to see the new threat only for a brilliant blue blur to knock her violently out of view.
Floating above a sudden swell of pride practically blocked all the pain away. Seeing the blue and gold armor years in the making finally out in the world, and far more important was the man inside who dared to wear it.
“When we’re on the clock call me Dynamo.”
20 minutes ago.
“On your left! Your left!” Elliot screamed into the communicator but he might as well have been screaming at the TV for all the good it did. He flinched away as the blow came, the cameras on the suit instantly going down and the young man forced to follow the news cameras that kept their distance.
“Gold come in!” He could hear breathing on the other line but received no response. “Dad come in!”
He waited for what felt like an eternity but still received no response just shallow breathing. On the TV the reporters kept their difference, the only thing visible through the dust and debris of the shattered building was the silhouette of the giantess looming over it.
Elliot swallowed. A million thoughts were running through his head though he knew the decision had already been made for him. He shut his eyes and mumbled a prayer for both his father and himself, hoping someone up there was paying attention, while he dashed for his father’s newest creation.
He really wished he had been paying more attention the night before. No doubt his father would have happily gone into every detail about the armor at length should he have only asked. As such he had no idea what the thing was capable of. He could only hope that putting it on wasn’t going to put them all into even further danger.
“Alright seems like the normal set up, nothing to be scared of,” he said aloud mostly to get past the thought of the armor spontaneously combusting or launching its entire arsenal off at random. He picked up the helm expecting, naively, that he could simply put it on his head. His dad, at some point, must have decided that that was far too pedestrian.
The moment it was lifted its eyes lit up as if it was waking from a slumber. Elliot laughed nervously guessing that it must have been touch activated. That laugh turned into a very manly shriek of terror as the helmet seemed to melt into blue and gold muck within the palm of his hand. While this was worth several evenings’ worth of nightmare fuel it only grew worse as the muck climbed up his arm like some sentient blob and then, to his horror, latched onto his face.
Before he could work himself into a full panic however the muck solidified and reformed over his face into something less terrifying, and after taking a moment to make sure he hadn’t soiled himself, Elliot could appreciate the craftsmanship of his father’s work.
While he would have vastly preferred the helmet from the old days in terms of technological capabilities it was night and day. There was a reason they needed someone to monitor the situation back at the base the suits just weren’t built to handle all that information. Not only did this design manage to equal the monitoring set up it did so without being a task to handle. If his eye lingered on a display it would enlarge and go into further detail, and the layout adjusted to his preferences without a command or prompt. It seemed to adapt to him naturally which he found equal parts both creepy and amazing. On another day he would be happy to experiment for hours with it, alas time was not on his side.
With no small degree of fear he noticed an ‘armor up’ icon in his peripheral vision. Wishing for no more night terrors he shut his eyes and let the suit do the work for him. Upon feeling nothing Elliot opened his eyes half expecting the armor to wait until he was looking before lunging after him.
Perhaps only the helmet needed to delve into the realm of horror to get working, or perhaps the suit just worked faster, but he at once realized an advantage in the new design. Suiting up used to take several minutes, not only in preparation, but application. With some of the older models it was a two person job at minimum. This was practically instantaneous! More so it barely felt like he was wearing anything. On first glance the armor looked to weigh several hundred pounds like the other models. Make no mistake while the armors certainly pulled their weight, so to speak, depending on the model it could be a workout just to get the thing to move. Wearing all this gear now felt as if he rolled out of bed in just his boxers.
After he saved his father’s life he really needed to ask him how that worked.
“Alright now to get this thing moving,” he said though suddenly realizing just how to do that was not immediately apparent. ‘Okay this should be fairly simple, don’t want to get in a fight and have to go through a lengthy start sequence. Hey what’s this one,’ was his final thought before he was sent rocketing through the ceiling.
That might have been a rather humiliating end to his return to super-heroics but it seemed the suit felt that plowing through steel, stone, and mortar about as troubling and plowing through Styrofoam. He hit open air without as much as a bruise and looked down at the Elliot shaped hole in the roof below with disbelief.
“Plenty of time to feel awe later,” he said chastising himself. He scanned the skyline and for a brief moment enjoyed being exposed to clear blue skies before finding his target. Even from this distance the chaos was readily apparent. The news crews had lost track of his father, and he was still only getting static. His dad might be…no stupid thought, one not worth thinking about.
Given everything else he’d seen so far flight speed wasn’t surprising. Still he was hurtling over downtown high-rises in less than a minute of flight time. He didn’t spare too much time looking at the devastation. Elliot was already pissed and knew fighting angry wasn’t the smart play. Mutatio might be an amateur but he was an amateur with very deadly toys. It wasn’t long before the main weapon in his arsenal came into view.
Seeing her on TV didn’t do her justice and a part of him, a very cowardly part, screamed at him to fly as fast and as far as he could in the opposite direction. People just weren’t meant to be that big! Just the sight was unnerving.
Fear though was just as dangerous as anger. It was fine to feel it but he couldn’t let it control him or, fancy new suit or not, he might wind up a stain on the ground. It was then he felt his comm crackle to life and a surge of hope well within him.
A grin threatened to split Elliot’s face, “I hope you’re not giving up already after the trouble I’m going through!”
“Elliot?” His dad sounded terrible and Elliot could feel the anger and bile rise up in his throat. He was just an old man who liked to play with his toys, he had done so much for this city, given up so much, shouldn’t just be able to retire in peace without this kind of shit happening?
He bit back his anger and used it to give him focus. Elliot had to admit he was out of practice, at his current job if he lost his temper he might just lose a client or a paycheck. Here he could quite easily lose his life. So he fell back on old habits. When the emotions get to great whether that be from fear, pain, anger, or even excitement, turn it all into a joke.
“No, no, no…one second.”
Whatever plans the doctor had had he apparently wasn’t ready for reinforcements to arrive so soon. He scrambled to get his giant facing the right direction but wasn’t remotely prepared for how fast Elliot was moving; though to be fair neither was Elliot.
He had intended to stop just short of the giant’s face for both dramatics and that it would allow him to assess the situation while taking attention off his father. Completely mistiming his current velocity however he instead slammed right against the poor giantess’ forehead. The force snapped her head back and sent her colossal body careening toward the ground. Whoops…
Like with the whole ceiling incident he was more or less unharmed. Unlike the ceiling the giant could say the same and quickly rose to her knees. Elliot could only be thankful that none of the scattered police forces were caught behind her. That definitely wouldn’t have been very heroic. Ignorant of his screw up, the remaining forces gave a raucous cheer and quite sensibly began to gather the injured and make their escape.
“When we’re on the clock call me Dynamo,” he said in bombastic fashion and couldn’t help but strike a pose. As cheesy as it was it guaranteed Mutatio’s focus was on him and only him. The good doctor kept claiming not to want to hurt anyone and limit the damage but having watched the news reports Elliot could describe Mutatio’s efforts as piss poor at best.
It took Mutatio a moment before recognition kicked in. “The sidekick.”
“Hey it’s ‘the partner’ alright. The S-word is very offensive and derogatory term.”
Mutatio having dealt with the far more serious member of the family seemed to need a moment to reboot. “Ah the new look had me puzzled but the infantile humor is definitely more familiar.”
“It’s a trademark.” Dynamo said with a hint of pride
As he battled exasperation Mutatio violently flinched back as Dynamo’s fist impacted of his shield. The doctor stared wide eyed as he had only looked away for a moment. Energy flexed and sparked from the point of the young hero’s fist and Mutatio had to order Lindsey to jump back before the entire shield collapsed in on itself.
The doctor panted suddenly regarding the new comer as a much bigger threat than he initially anticipated. “Feigning buffoonery coupled with brutal tactics. I think I have your measure now.”
“Smaller words doc, it’s still early.”
“We need not do this you know…”
“Save it, I’m kicking your ass, I’m kicking her ass, I’m saving this city, and then I’m going back to bed. Got it?” He said ticking off each item like he was remembering which groceries to buy.
“Well then I suppose there’s no reasoning with some people. Lindsey be a dear,” Mutatio of course didn’t need to say a word but Elliot got the sense that the doctor was irritated. The young hero expected the giant-err Lindsey, to roar, bellow, or perhaps stomp around your typical monster movie stuff. Instead she pulled a gun the size of a bus on him and, in what was becoming a pattern today, Elliot was at a loss for words.
The gun erupted with a canon like retort and Elliot threw his body away from where she was aiming. The dramatic action wasn’t necessary. There’s a very good reason guns are poor weapons against something as small as a fly. The shot missed him by a mile though Elliot realized with horror it wouldn’t miss everything.
The bullet impacted against a building three blocks down and the gouge it tore through the structure resembled what may have happened should it have been hit by a wrecking ball. That was out of the evacuation zone. He could hear the cries over the new casts, distressingly one actually went off air. His urgency to end this quickly shot up another couple levels.
He rose up but stopped suddenly as ‘Lindsey’ lowered her weapon. “This whole endeavor is pointless for the both of us.”
“I’d say the families of the people who died today may say different,” just how many where there now?
“And how many more will there be?” Mutatio asked anticipating Elliot’s thoughts. The doctor raised his hands in a placating gesture. “You have the advantage now, I don’t deny that. You will very likely win and perhaps in short order, but how much damage will result?”
The area was evacuated, but just the damage caused by the giant’s flailing had been enough to perhaps permanently damage the weaker structures. How much more would it take to put her down? There was always taking out Mutatio directly but the man was weary, cautious, and had one hell of a defense. Perhaps if Elliot knew what the armor was capable of but he had already had a couple instances of underestimating it. Next time he might not be so lucky.
“All I wish to do is depart, not the desired outcome you’re looking for at this point granted. But isn’t it preferable to all this?”
It was tempting but wouldn’t salvage the situation. Did anyone have the slightest idea what was waiting for them out there. Devson almost certainly did, but he was gone, and played things so tight to his chest any potential answers either waited out there or with Mutatio.
“How about you surrender your friend there has a seat, you tell us just what is going on, and then maybe we’ll give you a comfy cell to spend the rest of your life in.”
“I did try to be reasonable,” he said though his actions immediately turned to barbarity. Lindsey took aim at a familiar damaged building the one where his father still lay prone.
Elliot may have been fast but he was as of yet not faster than a speeding bullet. The gun belched off three shots in rapid succession each leaving jagged gouges in the base of the building. The foundations had already been shaken by her direct assault and her very presence created tremors that did its standing no favors.
“I don’t imagine that will last long,” Mutatio added unhelpfully.
“This isn’t over,” Elliot scowled but knew any action now would have to wait.
“Then I imagine I’ll be seeing you on the outside, hopefully that will be enough to-”
Dynamo didn’t stay to here yet another reason why Mutatio was right in his fanaticism instead he bolted toward the now collapsing building through the hole Lindsey had made earlier.
“Children today, well my dear we’ve failed in one regard but still must press on. We are on a schedule after all.”
Nicholas had not been idle since his son’s arrival though the progress he made was minimal. Through mostly sheer force of will, and stubbornness only bolstered by age the old man managed to make it to his feet. That was until the impacts once again shook the building. It didn’t take a genius to know Elliot and the good doctor were having a tussle outside, but even he was surprised just how much indirect damage they could do. He was about to make the call to Elliot try to lure Mutatio and his slave to somewhere more sparsely populated and preferably with as few buildings as possible.
The act was put on hold when, what he could only describe as explosions, rocked the building and knocked him off his feet.
Thoughts of aiding Dynamo, once again, took a back seat to survival. Heavy debris fell from the level above and the old hero was once again had to be concerned about being crushed like an ant. The suit could do a lot but being buried under a few hundred tons of rubble would probably be too much for it. Getting to his feet would take too long. Nicholas tried to activate his jets only to hear something akin engine failure.
The old man laughed.
How many times had he had to rescue some old fool from certain death in his youth? He darkly thought of the times he was too late and prayed Elliot would arrive if only for the boy’s sake. He looked up. His view of the outside now blocked as the roof began to collapse in on itself. Another man would have waxed poetic about the blessing of seeing the real sun and real sky once before he died. Nicholas was more concerned about seeing someone break Mutatio’s jaw. The old man shut his eyes having accepted that you don’t always get what you want in this world, and was at peace believing Elliot would do what he couldn’t.
As the fourth floor rudely joined the third and rushed toward second the oncoming rubble roared like a freight train. As such whatever Dynamo said, as he thrust through it all, was lost on the older man. Just as well a torrent of “shit shit shit” wasn’t the most heroic of things to say.
There would be no miraculous last second flights through the rubble this day though. It took everything for Elliot to outrace the building’s collapse the most he could do was dive atop the gold armor and take the hit himself. By the time he realized this just might be a stupendously bad idea the fourth, third, second and first floors came to meet him.
About a half hour later, once it was clear that Mutatio’s departure with his giant was genuine, the area flooded with first responders, medical personal, press, it was pure chaos. So much so that even a civilian like Amy Brandt could enter the area relatively unnoticed. The damage done to the city had been worse than any incident in years. Even the bad old days would have struggled to produce a singular incident such as this.
There were so many hurt just from the incidental damage from the giantess that Deacon knew he had no choice but to help. Amy didn’t have his strengths as a physician so she fell back to what she knew could do. Finding Nicholas was just a matter of following the trail of destruction.
Along the parade route it wasn’t pretty. Crushed floats, cars, and other things that she was happy to say she did not witness. But that was with the giantess just moving through the streets. This was an actual assault.
Apex tower had literal gouges torn from it. Smoke wafted from a floor that looked utterly demolished. The streets surrounding the building where impassable, jagged chunks of asphalt and streets looking on the verge of collapse. Still in better shape than some of the buildings some of which were little more than rubble.
She had tried calling Elliot and had gotten static. He should have been watching out for his father back at their place. Elliot may not have wanted to the family business any longer, but he knew the rules as much as any of them. He wouldn’t have shirked that duty. He wouldn’t have let his father go it entirely alone.
There was active work in digging out one of the buildings and an uncomfortable feeling rose in her chest. The area was supposed to have been evacuated so who was in there? A stupid question she realized. Who else it would be? But there was the niggling question of would it be a rescue mission, or would this be a salvage mission?
She wanted to ignore the thought but it was impossible. The situation wasn’t over, the skies were blue, and there were giants at the gates. If Elliot and Nicholas were dead…
There was an incessant vibration in her pocket that snapped it from her thoughts. She pulled it from her pocket and was both surprised and overjoyed to see it was Elliot calling her.
“Oh good I have a signal, also you’re okay, so bonus.”
“Where are you?”
“Downtown,” he said casually.
“Downtown where?! You don’t get to be glib after today!”
“Downtown under a couple tons of rubble, Dad’s here too if you’re wondering.” There was a pleasant, if haggard, ‘hello Amy’ on the other end. Her eyes immediately went to the building the emergency services were trying to dig themselves out of.
“We’re fine, we’re fine, you big worrywart, I do need a favor though.”
“I need you to look after dad, he’s not seriously injured but he is hurt. Also I’ll need someone acting as my eyes and ears.”
“Wait you’re not…”
At that very instant a blue and gold hand punched through the rubble causing the on the crews jump back and then give a defiant cheer. A cheer that grew louder as Dynamo not only emerged, but pulled a damaged, but very much alive, Gold alongside him.
“I’m going outside and I’m bringing Mutatio back, no matter what’s out there.”
Best laid plans... by Kusanagi
“It’s a pretty sentiment but a stupid one,” Nicholas said through gritted teeth. At times like this he wished Amy’s husband was in on their secret. Amy was a dear but an actual medic she was not. Following the chaos they managed to reconvene at the house then were able to pull Nicholas’ bloody and bruised body from the armor. It hadn’t made his disposition exactly sunny and when Elliot proposed going straight after Mutatio, his father was considerably less so.
“Do you have a better idea?” Elliot was still in the armor but was sans the helmet. He came out of the encounter without a scratch, not a small feat when a building falls on you.
“I would say the three of us head out like the old days, but” he gestured to his body which now starting to resemble a mummy. “the spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak. As for Amy,”
“Someone actually needs to keep an eye on the city and organize a defense if need be,” she finished. Elliot had got her taking the occasional glance at the display case featuring her own armor.
“Not that it matters your old suit makes for pretty window dressing but it’s hopelessly out of date. Had ideas of revamping it but this definitely forced my hand,” Nicholas said quashing the issue and earning a mild blush from Amy.
“So I go it alone and I do so soon. He’s already got a head start and actually seems to have some idea how the outside world works now.”
Nicholas heaved a sigh. “Figures you’d embrace the suit only when it comes to a suicide mission,” it was quite evident Nicholas wasn’t joking in regards to the suicide mission. As much as Elliot wanted to go directly after Mutatio even he couldn’t fault the logic that doing so without a plan would be just as good as sticking a gun in his mouth.
“Mutatio might have lost it but he was right about being proactive. Whatever’s out there we’re exposed now.” Elliot persisted though he knew he wasn’t convincing anyone.
“And whatever’s out there was enough to drive a respected member of the council bat shit crazy,”
“Have we thought about whether he’s right or not? I mean someone out there knew we were in here. Where was the aid, the support, or communication whatsoever?” Amy said finishing off the last of the bandages.
The three went silent at that. Writing the doctor off as a crazed maniac was far simpler than the alternative. Elliot shook his head. “Moot point, right or wrong he has to be found. He’s the only one with a damn clue about what’s going on,”
“We are seeking to change that.”
The three turned to find the Minister walking in unannounced which at the start of the day would have been a shocking revelation but now just raised quizzical eyebrows for both Elliot and Amy. She had a few small bruises but seemed to have escaped the chaos at Apex tower unharmed.
“Elliot and Amy I believe you know the Minister,” Nicholas stood with a wince and Amy hastily provided him some support though her eyes didn’t leave the newcomer.
Elliot gave her a polite nod before asking the obvious, “how long?”
“Pretty much since the beginning, you think the smartest people in the city couldn’t find out the identities of three vigilantes?” the thought brought a smile to her face. “Though it did help that original Flying Fox was on good terms with most of the council, figuring his son was the Gold Standard wasn’t a stretch,” she said mustering a degree of humor.
“None of that matters though, not anymore,” she turned to face Elliot. “As much as I wished I could offer you the full support of the city in tracking down that bastard the city is on the brink, and we have no idea of the validity of this unseen enemy.”
“See someone agrees with me,” The young man said with a smug smile aimed at his father.
“I also acknowledge I’m quite possibly sending a bright young man to his death.”
“Aside from the bright young man part I fully agree.” His father prodded. “In the meantime I trust we have the device?”
“What remains of it in any case, the best and brightest are looking over but Devson kept its secrets well hidden.”
“And we have no idea how long we have.” Amy said stating what they were all thinking. If nothing else Mutatio left a strong degree of paranoia running through everyone in the city and they certainly weren’t above it.
“All the more reason to get going,” Elliot couldn’t hide his eagerness though rationally he knew it was foolish. A large part of it was the suits doing. He had thought the addiction to that kind of power for years and now had been given an extended taste. It was impossible to deny he was eager for another chance at it.
“Boy you barely know how to operate the thing.”
“Yes let’s go through a week long tutorial before we get more giants coming down the beanstalk.” Elliot barked at his father earning another glare. Despite his condition Nicholas certainly didn’t look like he was going to take much more of his son’s impatience.
Luckily Amy dutifully put herself in between the two hot heads.
“He needs to go,” she said directly to Nicholas. “And you need to calm down,” she said sharply to Elliot, “if we give them a half hour start but you’re fully prepared to go after him we’ll live with it.”
The two backed off looking abashed, “Now the two of you apologize.” Both favored her with looks wondering if she was kidding. “Go on!” she said in a tone usually reserved for her stubborn students.
They both mumbled a quick sorry much to the amusement of the minster. “Not so different than handling kids.” She smirked.
“As amusing as this is, while we’re not set on sending young Elliot off just yet, a coordinated plan is still called for.”
“You still have Mutatio’s henchmen, though how much they know is suspect, he didn’t exactly make an effort to retrieve them.” Nicholas mused.
“Still they shouldn’t be ignored. In addition we have to keep up appearances on the off chance that Mutatio was correct about those outside. We might not be able to duplicate the effects of the device but we may only be able to mirror the appearance.”
“We may need to send someone to accompany the boy. At least into the immediate area outside, making a big fake shield is cute but it doesn’t protect us much if they can recognize it as a fake.” The two elders went back forth like this was something common to them and for all Elliot knew it was. He tried not to read anymore into it but his father probably did get lonely some times.
“We can handle that. I’d say a few hours to organize a team,” Elliot shifted uneasily hearing that but didn’t protest. “Will that be enough time?”
“It will have to be. It’ll have to be.”
Mutatio stared into the mirror as his captive/cohort held him aloft in the sterile confines of one of the compound’s lavatories. He hardly recognized his eyes as they stared back. Tired, weary, cynical, a glaze over them that may have been tears and may have been something else entirely.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like that,” he said though not to Lindsey. “I wasn’t supposed to do this alone. They were supposed to listen, to understand, they’d see the sky and we’d stand united,” his voice strained and frustration mounted. “Damn that Devson! Gold would have listened if it weren’t for that pompous traitorous ass!” He seethed to no one, and slumped into Lindsey’s impartial hand.
“Instead I just have you. A person who would kill me the second I dropped my hold on you. Though if I recall correctly you tried to kill me the first moment you saw me as well. That night when I knew when I found out what you all were.” He looked into her glassy gaze not expecting or needing a response.
“You hate me and I am thankful for that because it’s more emotion than you ever showed anyone in Archimedes. Better to be hated than an afterthought,” he said bitterly.
Still he looked at himself in the mirror and felt a sense of revulsion. The same righteous fire that burned in him to see justice done for Archimedes caused him to lash out at the people he was trying to save.
“Better to be hated for a reason, than suffer under lazy terminal negligence,” he said without much conviction. “Come, the bruises the sidekick left on you are cleaned up. We shouldn’t expect any stops on our journey till your superiors arrive. God willing it will be nearly complete by then.” He knew his earlier assessment was wrong, he would have company. If not Gold then the boy, if not the boy then their young female companion, they would come seeking justice, if not vengeance, for his actions. Justice they deserved. If they all lived long enough to see his mission complete then he’d let them have it without hesitation.
“Be careful when fighting monsters, lest you become them.” He could live with his crimes so long as he would see the ones who drove him to this in hell with him.
“Alright give it a shot.”
“This is starting to feel expensive,” Elliot reached for the wine bottle cautiously as if it would explode given the slightest touch, which was appropriate given the last few bottles actually had. Power control was fundamental. Cutting loose in the suit was easy, restraining it to appropriate degrees took time and time was a precious commodity.
“It’s a ’67 if I didn’t use it for something like this it would never be used.” The elder engineer had quite the collection and most of it gathered dust. A nice display of shattered glass, and poor quality red wine, made quite the impression. ‘Just imagine it’s a hostage’s body,’ Nicholas had cheerily offered. The thought hadn’t saved the first five bottles from becoming ruined shards on the floor.
“It’s a ’69 actually.”
The impression on Nicholas’ face turned to stricken horror. Archimedes was not a wine making city before the incident, and while there had been serviceable attempts at a simulated variety it couldn’t hold a candle to the real thing. Any and all wine they had before the crisis was expensive, even the dross that was currently on the floor. The actual quality wine to certain people was more valuable than gold.
“Boy, that’s a bit more precious than your average hostage.”
“If the public could hear you speak,” Elliot said finding more confidence at his father’s distress. “If Lindsey had threatened one your precious 69s I don’t think you would have hesitated.”
His father flinched as Elliot gingerly took hold of the bottle then nearly fainted as his son gave it a gentle toss into the air safely catching the wine in palm a second later.
“You’re lucky your mother made me promise never to kill you, lord knows I’ve been tempted.” His father said with a sigh, relieved as Elliot handed back the bottle.
“So what else are we going to work on?”
“That’s it? Oh the thing is bare bones then.” Elliot said with a degree of disappointment. Still with the durability and power this thing showed that might be enough. “Makes sense, I mean you did just finish it.”
The old man snorted derisively. “You think I would consider anything that couldn’t do everything I wanted it to a finished product? No, what I meant is the suit’s AI is adaptive to the user. Once you’re used to treading lightly the embedded AI will make sure that goes for all systems.”
The engineer walked back to the wine rack and tenderly placed the 69 back down and then after a careful search retrieved one he could part with.
“You can see how you can access your blasters right?”
“I’m afraid where this is going.”
“Try and punch a small hole into the bottle.”
“I rather not, I didn’t go to the trouble of saving you just to commit manslaughter,” Elliot hedged. It was all fun and games before someone got a hole punched through their torso.
“Would you feel comfortable if you were in your old suit?”
“So if you could trust my designs before you can trust them now! Now quit being a baby and shoot me”
“Times like this I really wonder what would have happened if I was born into a normal family,” he said with resignation knowing his father wouldn’t take no for an answer. With his father still dead set against the plan, despite admitting he had no better alternatives, there was tension in the air that neither would address. Better for Elliot just to do what he was told instead rather than address the elephant in the room. Just like old times.
Elliot focused on a gentle push or at least as gentle as a stream of raw energy could be. He thought to the times when he had fought your average street punk, your muggers, your general riff raff. Nothing to warrant the full brunt of the armor’s power but needed a lesson in manners all the same. He smirked and fired.
A burst of energy launched from his palm and the bolt pierced the side of the bottle but didn’t exit out of the back. The attack leaving a neat little hole and something of a mess as the wine began to pour out.
“See? Trust the tech,” Nicholas said vindicated.
“Now if only you could put as much faith in me.”
Elliot had meant to say that under his breath but it came out louder than he intended. He regretted it as soon as he said it and expected his father to immediately round on him, spitting fire, and give him a firm dressing down. Instead the old man almost looked ashamed.
“Look Dad, that was uncalled for.”
“No, no it was. Can’t very well keep asking you to trust the suit, to trust me, when I haven’t been doing the same,” he said as he walked to Elliot’s side. “Every time you went out there in the past, even in the worst of times, I could always tell myself I’d be there to pull you from the fire if need be. I can’t this time and it’s killing me.”
He clasped his hand on his son’s shoulder. “But you are the best chance this city has.”
“But do you believe in me?”
“Son in this situation you could be Jesus H Christ and I would still have a crisis of faith.” Despite the situation Elliot had to bite back a laugh. “I trust you to do your absolute best and that’s all I can ask of you. It’s just that it’s only you and me right now, and still you still owe me grandkids so I’m going to be really pissed if you get yourself killed.”
Elliot smirked and pulled his father into an embrace. They stayed like that for some undetermined about of time before a bout polite coughing grabbed their attention. Amy stood there with a cheshire grin on her face.
“Can I get in on the hugging action?”
Nicholas cleared his throat and let go of his son. “Perhaps later.”
“Just as well I suppose, the Minister is ready.”
“Our plan is as follows. Dynamo you’ll be accompanying Salmod, Averies and Jenson outside. Pretty much all information we have is scant aside from the direction we need to go. Best guess is this is a facility of some sort. Any effort to engage the outside civilly, or perhaps divert their attention entirely is based on any information we gather.”
“Given what little we could gauge from what Devson said the infrastructure for communication should still be intact. It may just be a matter of rediscovering the proper systems.” Nicholas finished for her. Elliot turned to Amy wondering if she was seeing this too. Already finishing each other’s sentences.
“Dynamo, our top priority is gaining this information and if comes between that and pursuing Mutatio…”
She let it hang. He didn’t like it but there was no arguing with it. If any further crisis could be averted without Mutatio it had to be doggedly pursued, no matter his personal thoughts on the matter.
“Of course once this information is obtained, I can only ask to you to act to the best of your discretion.”
His father did his best to not roll his eyes. Dynamo gave him a pat on the shoulder as he passed. The best reassurances he could possibly give him.
“Nicholas if you could join us at Apex tower we need all the geniuses we can if we wish to make a difference in the time we have. Will we need any of this equipment?” She said speaking of the monitoring equipment. A protest rose in Elliot’s voice before being silenced with a look from his father that said Just because I can’t be there doesn’t mean I’m not looking after you.
“It would be a pleasure my dear, but no this one is a bit more advanced than previous models. They’ll have everything I need at Apex.”
“Alright gentlemen lets proceed.”
It had been that simple. The best they could come up with. Only slightly better than going off cocked by himself. He dropped his father and Amy off at the tower, though she couldn’t stay without coming up with some proper explanations to her husband.
Nicholas didn’t bother saying anything, everything that he needed to get off his chest he already had. From there it was just meeting with team and heading out.
The path out of the city followed the same Lindsey had taken when she entered. It was hard to believe there was a parade this morning. The APC rolled along the damaged route and Elliot, for the first time, took in the damage from street level. The police had managed to evacuate most of the civilians, not that they needed much encouragement. The closer they got to the edge of the city, where the walls used to be, the fewer people remained. This part of town was always, well always since the great disaster, been the most sparsely now it had the feel of a ghost town.
“They used to try to get people to rent here by saying it would be the first back in the world.” Averies was the one who spoke, young man about Elliot’s age of Asian descent, he chuckled as he looked at the older less developed buildings. “I can’t say they were wrong.”
Elliot was in full suit, riding along with the hastily put together team. Any awe they might have had riding with a super hero was tempered given the grave nature of their duty. It would be one thing if they were only stepping into the unknown. But they did know what was out there and they knew exactly what kind of damage could be done by it. It was possible Mutatio was mad. It was possible in his zealous need to prove his point that he bent the truth to make the situation seem all the more dire for whatever purpose. It was also possible that the once humble doctor had been driven mad by whatever he had found out in the world, and now they were willingly stepping into it.
The first change was once they passed the border was the difference in the light. It took Elliot a moment, as the immense scale made it hard to take in, but there was no doubting high above the lighting was artificial. Fluorescent if he wasn’t mistaken.
The entire team, Elliot included, strained to see just what had been hidden from them for decades. The entire city, from border to border, was contained within an immense enclosure. A circular ring in the ceiling, running just past the borders, exposed the city to the sky but once outside the city the structure seemed entirely sterile and lifeless. From the bare walls, to the smooth tile floors that replaced the pavement they had been driving on.
All that paled once they could appreciate just what lay before them. A towering door that even made the giant seemed small; their first destination and first obstacle. The enormity of their task hit them all at once, but if they didn’t rise to the challenge it would surely meet them all too soon.
To keep it from overwhelming him Elliot chose to keep it simple. Get Mutatio and get back. He could think about how all this scared the piss out of him later.
Chance at Freedom by Kusanagi
It wasn’t the sight they were hoping to see upon entering the facility, and in terms of omens it didn’t speak well to their prospects. There wasn’t a chance to take anything about the new world in as their first sensation through the door was the fresh stench of death.
The colossal lifeless body that lay just beyond the door was perhaps the most humbling thing any of them had seen so far. He was a good bit bigger than Lindsey, not that it mattered when faced with a gun. He was young as well, probably a co-worker. The facts that he hadn’t been moved or attended to meant they were either alone or there were more grizzly discoveries waiting for them.
“How long?” Elliot had to ask.
“I’m not a medical examiner by any means but I don’t get a sense of rigor mortis setting in. It was probably just before our giant friend made her entrance.”
Just another victim of Mutatio and there was nothing about this one that could be called accidental. Until proven otherwise Elliot was going to treat every victim of the Doctor equally, large or small.
“Can we do anything, at least cover him up?” It was a stupid question, he knew they couldn’t leave such blatant evidence about, but it didn’t feel right to just work around a corpse.
“The time it would take to move… ‘that’ is time better spent actually helping the cause,” Jenson said. He was the oldest of those assembled. In his thirties though one who seemed to have aged prematurely, he could have easily passed for forty.
“Him, not that, we’re better than the doc,” Elliot corrected softly, not able to work up the anger he wanted. He might not be able to do anything for this guy, but he didn’t want Mutatio’s line of thinking infecting anyone else. An uphill battle all things considered, but with all the power he had right now he couldn’t afford as looking at everyone like an enemy.
Averies didn’t address either of them instead he looked up to where the giant had been working. “I’m guessing that’s our best bet for any kind of immediate access.”
“I don’t suppose there will be a more sanitary option?” It didn’t take a genius to note that the way the poor guy was sprawled out that he had probably been working when he was shot. Unfortunately no one had any better ideas, “didn’t think so.”
After a moment of awkward flight, what with carrying all three, they came to rest on the cubicle and thankfully it wasn’t quite as grizzly as Elliot had been expecting. There was a blood splatter on the computer screen but luckily no giant sized gore. If one could look past the blood, it was easy to appreciate the sight of a computer at about as tall as a two story building.
“Bit of luck looks like he was logged in when he was shot,” Salmond said looking over the display.
“Bit of luck that they even have computers to begin with. We could have been working with microfilm or worse!” Jenson laughed, “Surprised the outside world developed this much without Archimedes.”
Despite the horror of the situation it was a definite’ boys with toys’ moment as the scientists were naturally intrigued with the foreign technology. The idea of ‘in different circumstances’ was becoming all too common for Elliot and it was starting to become annoying. Here they were in what was for all intents and purposes an alien world. So much could happen in in a century, what was similar, where had they diverged? He was sure the others had the same thoughts about that even as the three of them scrambled over the key board like overly curious mice.
Some things were definitely similar to life in Archimedes however. While the others were naturally concerned about the computer Elliot’s eyes drifted to the man’s personal effects. Pictures of family, maybe friends; one stood out in particular with the young man holding a young girl who was about five.
Suddenly he felt like he needed to clear his head. “Guys I’m going to do a little more in depth exploration. Coms on in case I need to rush back here.”
They gestured in vague fashion signaling they heard him. The lot of them acting like a kid barely paying attention to their parent.
Elliot took off not imagining what he might find. Something, or someone, had set the doctor off and he didn’t have the benefit of jets to get him around. So it had to have been either a really disastrous first encounter or something that had been apparent and obvious that Doctor could reach by himself.
Still it wasn’t like he was going to have a hint rise up and smack him in the face. The only thing he could do was…
He had put good distance between himself and the initial room. The corridors ran deep and looked to branch off up ahead. It might have taken a good deal of exploring had a hint not practically slapped him in the face.
A piece of paper, on the giant’s scale, was marked with yellow and blue highlighter, with a message that was as blunt as possible. [Gold or Dynamo first branch on the left.]
His initial thought was trap but the doctor could have easily just ambushed them outside the first door. A swift kick to the APC from Lindsey would have taken the wind out his sails and probably killed his comrades to boot.
“I suppose a trap is better than sitting around all day,” he said with a smirk. Further down the corridor were identical signs to the first one. He supposed Mutatio had done that just in case he had been especially thick and missed the first one. Elliot got the impression the doctor didn’t think highly of his intelligence. That was fine with him. If the Doctor wanted to hold his hand and gloat about just why he was in the right Elliot would let him. It would make shutting him up all the sweeter.
He followed the signs and it led him to something of an un-used office. One thing he had noticed so far was aside from the desks where Lindsey and her partner worked most of this complex seemed entirely unused. Even without the area dedicated to Archimedes he would guess, were it on the proper scale, it would take up a couple city blocks. Gauging by a couple maps he had seen it likely had several levels as well. So where the hell was everyone?
Yet another mystery for the pile, but it could wait until he found what Mutatio had wanted him to see. The room looked relatively mundane. Table, desk, no personal effects, and completely un-offensive art on the walls, he probably could have walked into any office downtown and would have seen the same thing. The difference, of course, being he wouldn’t feel like a mouse in any of those offices.
He settled down and out of habit checked his armor’s power supply. Still at a 100%, though they did charge up back at the base. His father assured him it would be good constantly running for three days. That of course didn’t take into account anything he might encounter over the course of those three days. God willing this would be over in a day or less but Elliot was a tad pessimistic.
Nothing was readily apparent of what Mutatio would want him to see. By now it was obvious it wasn’t a trap, and he seriously doubted Mutatio would take the time to lure him to a random room for no purpose…though he had to admit that would have been an amazing way to slow him down.
No he had to think smart as he couldn’t afford to be impulsive, not this time. All too often in the old days he was content to shut his brain off and let his dad do the heavy thinking. That wasn’t going to cut it now.
“Okay…the signs can be dismissed. Their vague and written by a giant, but a message is going to be something discrete, easily over looked, probably on my scale.” It all seemed logical enough. If Mutatio had something he wished to tell them, he’d make it obvious enough for him, while being unknown by his supposed enemies. Mutatio didn’t know who exactly was coming after him but thought it would be obvious enough for someone from Archimedes to discover.
He settled down onto the desk and thought. It had to be subtle and it had to be something quick. No way Mutatio spent hours setting this up.
Looking to his side he saw a pile of sticky notes, left apparently unused in the corner of the desk, behind some pen holders and other useless office supplies. Worthy of note though that it wasn’t covered in dust and had an old English A scribbled on top. That design was used for much of Archimedes’ official documents and paperwork from the government.
He quickly flipped to the next note and was unsurprised to find a message.
[Despite what you may think I do care for our city, and should my efforts fail the continued existence is my top priority. Details on the ‘wall’ can be found in their database documents under the title ct1. I know you wish to come after me but please read document ct5 and the video that accompanies it first.
The shift changes every 12 hours. They’ll be a new shift at 6 pm be done before then.
I doubt they will read into it, or find this message, but destroy it after reading. Good luck to you whoever you are.
Long live Archimedes
Elliot grimaced but tore the message free. It would be so much easier if the Doctor was the cackling villain variety. Still Mutatio at the moment was the least of their concerns. He checked for a clock in the room, not trusting this world’s time to be synched with Archimedes standard, and hoped it might still be running despite disuse. One basic black and white hung on a corner wall and was still running thankfully. It was 2 pm. Fantastic, four hours till everything hit the fan.
He took off as time was not their friend. Careening back the way he came, snatching Mutatio’s hints off the wall as he did so. If the doctor was right they had all of four hours to save the city. An unescapable distraction while the doctor got further away.
For Lindsey alertness came slowly and steadily. She’d been locked into her fog like state of compliance for hours so when it subtly began to fade her reaction to it was slow. They were in her car leaving the complex behind them. Mutatio’s last orders were their destination and nothing more. He had her turn on the news and then retreated into his resentful silence.
Lindsey was completing her orders and that damned device made her love any second of it. Still so long as she didn’t do anything to go against his orders she was allowed to think, and she certainly had plenty to think about.
She was going to die. There was no way around that now. He had willed away her of their first encounter. Kept her from her alerting her superiors, kept her from getting any help, if they would have even bothered, they may have put a bullet in her head just to limit the risk of exposure.
Given her current condition it may have been a mercy.
Then there was Archimedes of which she had a myriad of thoughts; some in direct contradiction with each other. When she started it was just the city in a bubble of which the politics surrounding its fate were so far beyond her pay grade it was best not to think about. It was there, it wasn’t going to change, there was no need to worry about it. There were those that wanted the situation to change, she heard the whispers, but her only concern on the matter was her job security.
The project had faced budget cuts and neglect for years. She could count the staff on two hands. There were talks about decommissioning the whole thing, though they assured her it at least wouldn’t be within the next year. Out of sight out of mind, she would have been content to go through another year and then be reassigned when her time was up.
Archimedes was never referred to as a city, or a people, it was a contagion, an anomaly, one that threatened the world at large but was thankfully safely contained.
Mutatio had forced her to dramatically alter her views. He eliminated the notion of a passive threat and Archimedes was no longer an anomaly, or simply a contagion. It was a city, a vibrant one at that. The thought of a ‘decommission’ now horrified her. She hated Mutatio, what he had done to her, what he had made her do. She’d gladly squish the bastard if given a moment’s freedom.
But trapped in her mind as she was, all she could do was think, examine the possibilities. What would she have done in his stead? How would she act if she knew that not only had Archimedes been abandoned but that there were plans to deco- no, just like anomaly, and contagion it was hiding behind language. Not only had Archimedes been abandoned but that its citizens faced the possibility of extermination! If certain players got their way they’d see every man, woman, and child wiped from the world.
It’s was a weighty matter, one that occupied her full attention, so that when the grip Mutatio had on her mind waned ever so slightly it went initially unnoticed, and when it slipped entirely the realization did not immediately result in Mutatio’s deserved death.
She hesitated in just that moment when she had the opportunity to flatten him like a bug, but as Gold found out earlier ‘he who hesitates is lost.’ Mutatio’s eyes snapped open from his brief slumber and she recoiled as if she touched a hot stove. It wasn’t due to Mutatio reasserting his will, but because she came to a decision about what was the right choice. A simple independent thought before the doctor’s vice like grip could once again claim her mind.
‘At least I can choose how I go out.’
She forced a hard right with the steering wheel and slammed the brakes. Even as Mutatio asserted his will the jeep was already going into a rollover. The jeep flipped and spun across the desert highway. A surge of relief filled her at least before everything went black.
“Are you seeing clear enough?” His father wasn’t joking about the new communications system. Communicating wasn’t an issue even outside the city. Nicholas was coming through perfectly and after a moment he could see the old man on his HUD with clear definition.
“Can see everything you see kid.”
“I take it you’ve been following our progress then.”
“I suppose we should be grateful to Mutatio for laying out the basics for us. Your team is busy relaying everything they can about the previous wall. Given what we know on our own about its properties we’re filling in a lot of gaps. Getting up a proper wall may take us beyond the four hours but we can do enough to keep up appearances.”
“I think they’ll be too distracted by the murder of an employee by a rogue agent to investigate any inconsistencies…makes me wonder if he was planning for that too,” where did the genius end and the coincidence begin. It was starting to bug the hell out of Elliot.
“Don’t fall into the trap of giving him too much credit. I don’t doubt his intelligence but I severely question his control. A high IQ doesn’t mean he can’t be a psychopath.”
Elliot didn’t share his thoughts on the matter. “Will we be able to transfer this information back to the city?”
“It’s a matter of working out compatibility. Computers seem to be in the same family, but positively archaic, and that’s not even accounting for size.”
The young hero smirked, “But,”
“You shouldn’t be having this much fun, especially with your injuries.”
“Villains to chase, mysteries to uncover, a world to explore; the dirty little secret you no doubt know my boy, we don’t just get into this kind of life because it’s the right thing to do.”
“And there’s the Minister.”
He noticed his father become slightly redder but his son did not press. “Dad, how good are this suit’s navigation systems?”
Thankful for a change of topic he answered without thinking. “Impeccable within the city, and you should at least have the capability for pinpoint directions outside of it.”
“Interesting, I also see I have a wealth of information on old maps.”
“From what I understand at the moment I’m a glorified paper weight. The gathering of information and implementation of the wall isn’t dependent on me at all is it?”
Nicholas went silent though was no doubt trying to think of something, anything, to dissuade his son from what he was currently planning.
“I’ll take your silence as a no.”
Again Nicholas didn’t have a response.
“If we’re going to have any peace with the real world, it doesn’t do us good for Mutatio to pile up more bodies in the meantime.” He watched his father’s expression. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that he was thinking of the girl and Elliot had to hit on that.
“Mutatio fully believes he can ‘solve’ the problem. Given everything we’ve seen do you really want to give him the chance to?”
“Keep in constant contact.” Nicholas said, clear in the fact that he had nothing to stop Elliot and moved straight to parental concern.
“Keep checking your energy usage. If you think you can’t make it back you’re turn return Mutatio or no.”
“And damn it this is seek and retrieve. You’re not Dynamo out there as messed up as it is to say do not play the hero.”
Elliot bit his lip and couldn’t hold back a sincere grin. “mmm no promises.”
Careless! Unforgivable! For all his plans, all his boasting, lives taken and ruined, and he nearly made it all moot by drifting away to sleep. Only a moment’s lapse and it was all it took to nearly bring it all down. If it wasn’t already ended, his shield saved him the worst of the accident but the car was beyond saving. The jeep now rested on its roof with its windows shattered and the beginnings of a fuel leak developing. Miles from civilization still the next town might have been on the other side of the world!
Mutatio composed himself, his rage would do nothing to aid him now, and had already hindered him in Archimedes. He would not be undone by this, he would persevere, a strong mind prevails. For the moment he would take stock off the situation. The girl still likely had her phone. He could contact someone and procure a new ride and host in one fell swoop, but before that the grizzly task and retrieving it from her likely corpse.
He braced himself for the sight. Despite the day’s efforts death was quite the new subject for him, one that was not fully enjoyed especially on the scale that Lindsey would present. However upon coming to the driver’s side of the jeep, the obvious body was nowhere to be found. He looked down the road expecting that maybe she had been flung from the car, but to no avail.
“Quicker than I expected…” his thought went unfinished as he noted a hint of movement out of the corner of his eye. Despite his failures, the scientist in him could not hide the joy of a new discovery. He strode forward; the glass to the window was shattered so he had no trouble walking through. The object of his attention lay crumpled in the corner.
She wasn’t in good shape after the crash. She had no shield to protect her. There were bruises running along her face, blood dripping from her mouth and along her side. But none of that was what caught the doctor’s eye. No, it was a matter of scale, and the fact that Lindsey was now of lesser stature than Mutatio himself.
“Now that I wasn’t expecting.”
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It was always a long drive, so long that it was typically avoided unless someone paid you to head this far out. It wasn’t just that there was literally nothing out there, aside from a few off limits areas the government still held claim to, there was also a creepiness factor. The closest Diane could come to describing it was like walking across a grave. It was different in town, with the tourists and the kitsch memorial, no one came out for pictures here. There weren’t any ‘never forget’ souvenir stands, or expensive museums out here. Just barren flat earth, and one empty neglected road leading to the one thing out here.
“I know you don’t want to be here Di,” Beck said, breaking what had been a good half hour of silence. He was an older man, approaching his 60s, but he still had a vitality to him. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead, and he was clearly uncomfortable in his drab tan and brown uniform. The air conditioning in the car sputtered loudly but provided little relief.
“Were the transfer papers your first clue?” Diane was a short cropped brunette, with something of a farm girl’s body despite never coming within a mile of a horse, cow, or plow.
“I mean here tonight, this might be your last night here but you can at least pretend to be professional about it.” He didn’t very well want to be here either but he’d be damned if he had to ride out this call on his own. “Day dream all you want about your new job but at least don’t make it so damn obvious.”
“Yeah, considering we’re acting as AAA now I don’t think zoning out is an issue.”
“It’s about professionalism. Besides you’ll miss quiet nights like this once you’re over in Eon. Nothing but lunatics, capes, and lunatics with capes.” He snorted at the thought.
“I’m sure my daily rounds will have me going toe to toe with them,” she said dryly.
“Just saying there’s nothing wrong with preferring a quiet life.”
“Quiet life here on the border of area 51,” she said of the government operations though was clearly overstating it. Diane imagined area 51 was a lot busier.
Beck only shrugged in response.
“Look, nothing against a quiet life but I’d prefer not to spend it in a tourist trap.” She spared a look outside. If you didn’t know the region it might appear as a desert and not a part of America’s Midwest. “A creepy tourist trap at that.”
“Alright, justified life choices or not, please at least try to keep a professional atmosphere for the rest of the day.”
She gave a mock salute but did have the good graces to straighten up at least. “I’m sure old Ed will appreciate it and not try to hit on me this time.”
Ed ran one of the tow trucks in town. He had gotten the call about the crashed car from what was apparently the victim and was immediately suspicious. Odd enough that it happened on the old road where there wasn’t anything out there to cause an accident. Still, he went out expecting a flat tire, maybe a cracked windshield, but instead he got a rollover accident with no sign of the caller when he arrived. Ed wasn’t above receiving prank calls but typically said pranks weren’t elaborate enough to flip jeeps in the middle of nowhere for a laugh.
“Stranger things have happened,” Beck finished with a whisper. The jeep was finally in view. Aside from Ed’s truck there wasn’t a person in sight, nor any signs of how it could have happened. Ed, an old grizzly of a man sporting flannel and an ungainly beard, was pacing seemingly unsettled and only showed relief once their car pulled up to a stop.
“Thank god, I didn’t want to spend another second out here,” he said, crossed himself, and nearly rushed to his truck.
“Whoa Ed what’s the rush?” Diane kept her professional demeanor but seeing a typical thorn in her side stricken with fear caused her to smile inwardly.
“I’m not getting abducted like whatever happened to this poor bastard!”
“Aliens,” Beck whispered
“Yeah I was able to gather,” Diane replied, trying very hard to keep up that professional attitude. “What makes you think it was aliens Ed?” she asked, unable to keep the exasperation from her voice.
“Lone road in the middle of nowhere, only place nearby is a government facility, no place for anyone wounded to get to without spotting them a couple miles off?” He extended his arms as if the answer was obvious. “Heh, fuck staying here I don’t need no probe!”
“He has a point,” Beck mumbled rubbing at the back of his neck.
“Did the person who called this in sound distressed in any manner?” Diane asked trying to steer this toward a more sane discussion.
“Calm as hell for someone who flipped their jeep. Probably the aliens wanting us to just clean up their dirty work.”
She gave Beck a pained look while the older man bit back a pointed laugh. “Alright Ed, we’ll need you later to come back and tow this mess out of here but you can go for now.”
Ed didn’t need to be told twice. “Just watch your asses, specially your pretty one Di,” he said and hurriedly clambered into his truck. Diane kept a stoic demeanor until Ed was well away.
“Alright that wasn’t the best case for you turning down the big city,” Beck chuckled while giving the jeep a closer look, shining his flashlight inside. “Not seeing any blood, either inside or on one of these smashed out windows. Pretty damn lucky… Wait a minute, I think I spy a purse jammed in between one of the seats.” He blinked. “Ed said it was a man who called it in. Does the car look familiar to you Di?”
One of the advantages of living in a small town, far better chance of spotting a local. “Company car, definitely came from the base.”
“That should narrow down who it is. As for where they are…hate to say it but Ed’s theory makes about as much sense as anything I can think of.”
Di didn’t bother to acknowledge that. “Someone could have given them a ride before Ed got here. Maybe it was the guy on the phone.”
“Right inconsiderate of them to just drive off while leaving the mess.”
“Spook gets drunk, speeds on an empty road and flips their jeep. Has someone pick them up so they can sober up before they have to answer any questions. Makes a hell of a lot more sense than aliens.”
It was convoluted, but also open and shut, which suited her just fine. The last thing she wanted was to leave Beck saddled with an actual case before she left. Hopefully it was just a matter of whoever this woman was simply being horribly inconsiderate. That wouldn’t actually strike her as odd given some of the out-of-towners’ attitudes.
Diane was about to reach it when a flash of light from the other side of the vehicle distracted her. She quickly rose, wondering if Beck had slipped to the other side with his flashlight only to find him still a short distance away.
“Did you see that?”
“See what? Not getting jumpy about aliens too are ya?”
She gave a derisive snort. “Might have been a firefly or something.”
“That’s news to me. Can’t remember the last time I saw anything alive out here that wasn’t human,” he said with a wink. She ignored it and focused on retrieving the purse.
It was only when he was completely free from the sterile confines of the complex that Elliot felt free to let out a giddy ‘whoop!’ Never before had he had such freedom. The eternal confines of the pink skies that had been present his entire life were now replaced by open road and blue sky as far as the eye could see. The young hero was free to cut loose as he had never had before. There weren’t limits to how far he could fly, and no danger to anyone that could limit how fast he could fly. It was tough for Elliot not to just throw himself into the sheer joy of racing through the heavens. If only it weren’t for that whole potential destruction of Archimedes, and threatened destruction of the world, he might really be able to enjoy himself.
The looming thought of just how much energy he would need to bring down Mutatio also lingered. Despite his father’s assurances he was deathly afraid of being stranded in a very hostile world with an all but useless suit.
Reality really could be a pain sometimes. For example, the land below was entirely an eye opener. Whatever had happened to shrink Archimedes had left the land entirely barren, and there hadn’t seemed to be any attempt at recovery.
If it wasn’t for the lone road from the facility he would have been forgiven for thinking the entire world was like that. Though, if nothing else, it did increase his odds of tracking down the wayward doctor. Short of the doctor taking it off road there was no place else to go.
“Any luck?” Elliot resisted the urge to roll his eyes as his father opened up the comm. He felt the need to huff that he could save the world just fine without Nicholas looking over his shoulder. The young hero held back though as he still didn’t know if that was true or not.
“It’s only been a half hour.”
“Stranger things have happened,” his father said weakly.
“When’s the last time something strange happened in our favor?” Elliot scoffed.
“Don’t be so rash, the data collection is going in our favor at least.”
Of that Elliot was thankful but didn’t wish to mention. Whenever something was in their favor mentioning it just felt like tempting fate. “Good news is I haven’t come across any vehicles headed back to toward the facility so no unexpected visitors just yet.”
“Alright boy, be sure to report on anything you happen to find, might just give us the heads up we need.”
“You’re going to say you just found something, aren’t you?”
“Sharp as ever.”
There was a touch of nervous anticipation as he saw the lights in the distance. The blue and red flashing lights were identical to the ones from home. He should have doubted it, but seeing those in uniform cemented that it was the same. Intriguing, but not what he was here for. They were settled next to an overturned vehicle and given the nature of this road and where he had come from it had his full attention. Questions abounded and he wasn’t going to find the answers in the air.
Typically when he dealt with the boys in blue it was from a lofty perch. While he wasn’t as awe inspiring as his old man but he did feel he commanded some deal of respect. Now, as he descended, he felt a cold lump in his throat. He wasn’t a hero, and he wasn’t a sidekick. He was an anomaly, a talking insect, a bug with a good deal of tech.
Lindsey wasn’t some supervillain, she was a glorified security guard who damn near killed one of the greatest heroes Archimedes had ever known.
To say the least there would be no bombastic entrances here.
He approached with caution aiming for the opposite side of the car as the uniformed officers examined the contents of the vehicle. Even at this size though it was clear the gaudy blue armor and jets were not designed for stealth. Almost immediately after he touched down the female officer questioned her partner if he saw something. He could feel his heart beating a mile a minute in his chest as he waited to see if he was worth investigating or not. Lucky for him his size made him too insignificant for them to bother.
He kept to the gap between the passenger side front and rear windows as he could hear the woman begin to reach into the fractured vehicle.
“Lodged between the seat. Whoever she was, getting out of here was more important than keeping her stuff. Keys are still in the ignition, probably jammed in there, but she left her wallet.”
The purse alone was enough to convince Elliot he was on the right track. He had been flying with nothing in sight for the entirety of the trip. That the one car he should encounter should have nothing to do with Mutatio seemed unlikely.
The flipped car wouldn’t have been the Doctor’s doing, though, no matter how baffling Elliot might believe his plan to be. There would be nothing to gain here. Lindsey perhaps, but he doubted the doc had anything to dispose of a body the size of a building, or at least he really hoped he didn’t. It would make all of Mutatio’s rants about solving the problem all the more ominous.
Behind he could hear the officer carefully climb inside and reach for the purse. “Cell phone’s still here too,” she called out.
“So we got no signs of injury, no body, and the supposed victim left all of her personal effects anyway? Given the fact that we don’t have any signs of blood, and an entirely composed call, what was the rush? Why leave her stuff behind? Not like the thing was likely to explode.”
Elliot took the chance to look. Imagination running through various sci-fi scenarios that even Archimedes technological heights couldn’t reach. Teleportation or perhaps disintegration? It sounded like fantasy but then so did the city being shrunk down and held in a cage for a century. The facts were ludicrous enough without any more curve balls.
The female officer was halfway inside the vehicle, eyes looking back at her partner. Elliot had to force himself not to stare. In the heat of the moment with Lindsey he really didn’t have the time to appreciate the size difference, and the corpse back at the lab wasn’t the same either. The officer was a big girl. The muscles in her outstretched arm alone likely dwarfed him. She honestly made Lindsey look petite. With the suit he had never felt this strong in his life, but in this new world it felt like it meant nothing.
“Kidnapped?” the female officer asked which snapped him out of it. He ducked behind the divider again before she could glance back at him.
“And they called it in Di?” her partner shot back incredulously.
“She was unconscious and a passenger called it in,” the woman said though it was clear she was grasping at straws as she changed theories on the fly.
“They both make it through that without a bit of blood on the scene, he escapes through the shattered glass, drags her out and there’s not a shred of evidence of either.”
“Damn it Beck it’s almost like you’re arguing for aliens!” Her patience apparently had evaporated.
“Well isn’t that fella in green from your new hometown an alien?” He had a good chuckle at that while his partner pulled herself free from the jeep.
Elliot glanced back then worked himself inside to see if there was anything they missed. Lindsey’s disappearance, and the man that called it in, told him they were long gone. Still a part of him hoped to find a tiny overlooked corpse just so he could go home.
No such luck on that front, but that didn’t mean there was nothing. His HUD allowed for several different modes of vision and as such could give the scene a far closer inspection than the sheriff and his deputy could possibly achieve on their lonesome.
There was blood but a very miniscule amount on the roof of the driver side.
And that meant…well shit it didn’t really mean anything come to think of it. He was never a detective, he was more of punch evil till it falls down kind of guy. Though at the moment he was seriously beginning to question not paying more attention to his dad work when he was younger.
“Lindsey Garnett, her ID card. Definitely one of the spooks,” the woman said examining the contents of the wallet.
“That’s nothing, the phone in the car? Check the last number dialed.”
Elliot grinned, no shame in delegating the detective work. He edged quietly to the other side of the car to let the titans continue their conversation and to perhaps look for a ride.
“Well that’s a bit unnerving.” Beck reached under his hat to scratch his head. Last number dialed was Ed’s. “So now we’re saying the guy was in the wreck, makes the call, casually I might add, leaves the phone in the car then drags her…shit. Aliens are far less complicated.”
“Look lets hook back up with Ed, he might have seen something else that he was too jittery to tell us at the time,” Diane said. Frustrated or not she could at least perform at her best on this last night.
“You’re only optimistic because this is your last day and you won’t have to put up with this bullshit tomorrow,” Beck said, calling her out on it.
She gave a small smirk and patted poor Beck on the shoulder. “Well it can’t be helped.”
Old Beck loosed a hearty laugh and gathered up what they could and placed them in evidence bags. “We should probably inform those at the facility. They’re a tight knit group, one of them in a serious accident, we better do our due diligence.”
“You even know what number to call? All of them are only in town cause no one wants to stay at that facility. Only one who is remotely social with the locals is Talbot the rest just try to blend in with the tourists.”
“Talbot would be at the tavern right?” Ed asked with a grin, already knowing the answer.
Diane felt a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “See, you hardly need me for this.”
“Alright it’s a lead if anything. Try and get Ed on the phone. If nothing else we’ll need him to pick up this wreck.”
She pulled out her own phone and was in the midst of dialing up the number when she came to abrupt stop. She looked back to the jeep but didn’t see anything. “Beck… not to fuel you and Ed’s delusions, but you feel like we’re being watched out here?’
The sheriff looked at her and tipped his hat. “Of course we are. Even if the spooks don’t give a shit about this place anymore, wouldn’t shock me if there’s still equipment to do just that. Probably no one watching though or else we wouldn’t have to be out here.”
That didn’t exactly put her at ease but she didn’t mention it again.
“Look, we find Talbot get his guys on this and we’ll get you off to the city in no time.” He opened the door to the squad car and out of the corner of her eye she swore she saw another flash, but it was gone again before she had time to register it. Whatever it was, Beck didn’t see it so she wasn’t going to bring it up.
She instead dialed Ed. She was entirely unsurprised when it went to voicemail. “He’s probably screening us.”
“Old fart will get to the wreck when he gets to it I guess. Not like anyone really uses this road anyway. No matter, this won’t be our case for the entirety of your shift anyway.”
Satisfied that there was nothing more they could do the two clambered into the car, unaware that they had a stowaway coming with.
“Just turn the phone off, dolt,” Mutatio irritably cried. The confines of his current mode of transport were far less comfortable than Lindsey’s vehicle. The old pickup truck’s passenger seat was made from torn green faux leather and orange fluff filling. It was far from the practical luxury he dealt with Lindsey’s company car. Ed, fully under his sway, turned off the braying cell phone. The blithering idiot and his crass music now silenced Mutatio could once again gather his thoughts and focus on wondrous discovery at his side.
“It’s a bit different on the other side I suppose,” the doctor said, a quiet attempt at small talk to calm his nerves. It wasn’t appreciated.
Lindsey was conscious, though she didn’t entirely have her wits about her. Unlike Mutatio she did not come out of the crash unscathed. It was hard to say whether her new stature had caused her further harm, or had prevented the crash from being fatal. In truth, Mutatio hardly cared. It was what led to her shrinking that he wanted to uncover.
The woman was far less enthralled with the discovery and even now she sat bound and gagged beside him. Despite the miracle she survived at all she was less than enthused about her current standing.
“You must understand none of this was expected,” he said with a placating tone. “You were supposed to die, further down the line granted, but you must understand the significance of this.”
The glare she favored him with told him even though the scales had been equalized she’d still murder him if given half the chance.
“First and foremost it means despite all the sins both you and I have committed, you have a chance to escape this alive. Far better odds than your colleagues at that dimmable facility at the very least.”
The glare didn’t abate.
“Of course that’s if you do what I say.” He may have rested a hand on her shoulder if he had happened to trust the bindings more. “Otherwise, well, at our size it’s very easy for accidents to happen.”
Lindsey shut her eyes, she clearly wanted to remain strong but couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran through her.
“You hate me, you want to kill me, and that’s fair. Really when this is all over you can probably join a legion of people who think the same. But that’s just it, there is an after if you let it happen.”
He let it sink in. When she opened her eyes again there were tears forming.
“You have to ask yourself, would you rather have your revenge? Or, do you want to live? If it’s the former we can end it now without much trouble.” He looked her in the eyes as he said that. Mutatio wanted her to see there was an edge to his words, a purpose. “But if you aid me, you will live through this, you can still have a life, one with far more purpose than punching the clock every eight hours.” He leaned as close as he would dare. “Yes or no it means no difference to me, but it will mean everything to you. So what say you?”
The hate never wavered and her gaze never strayed from his even as she nodded.
“Good. Now let’s talk about how you can help the cause.”
“You’re going to have to explain this to me again,” Diane said, not feeling particularly enthused with the current plan.
“Look, it’s pretty simple,” Beck said. “Talbot dislikes you, and Ed likes you. This isn’t rocket science.”
“We’re not counselors, we’re cops,” she chided.
“We’re cops trying to make things easier on ourselves. Ed is flirtatious.” Di gave him a glare that probably would have killed lesser men. “Ed’s perverted,” Beck quickly amended. “But he’s never done anything too extreme. He likes you, he’ll do what you say, even if it is on the slim chance.”
“No chance,” Diane snapped..
“Even though he has no chance, he likes to dream. Talbot on the other hand finds you somewhat abrasive.” Diane chuckled but didn’t deny the accusation. “Right, in either case breaking his nose wasn’t the best way to ingratiate yourself to him,” Beck said dryly.
“He deserved it. The man doesn’t know how to hold his liquor.”
“All the more reason for you to stick with the one who does like you. I can talk to Talbot, get him to get some other people involved. If you go, it all goes to hell and off track. Least with me it’s a polite conversation.”
“And for me it’s what? Oh, it’s not sexual harassment if he’s cute about it?” she said, narrowing her gaze at Beck.
The man held up a hand in scout like fashion. “I do swear, if Beck obtains any injuries that I as county sheriff will look the other way.”
“Deal,” she said immediately.
“That is reasonable injuries mind you, broken limbs void the deal.”
“Even if he’s asking for it?”
“Even if he’s asking for it,” the elder officer said sternly. Diane pouted but mulled it over for a few seconds.
“Can I taze him?” she asked hopefully.
“Look, I know you’re looking for a gift from me before you leave, but damn it, it will not involve Ed.”
“I guess that’s something,” she said with a roll of her eyes, then turned unexpectedly toward the back seat.
Beck raised a brow and a hint of a smiled graced his lips. “Case isn’t effecting you any is it?”
She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t sarcastic, she wasn’t really anything aside from embarrassed. Diane stared into the back seat as if expecting something. When called on it she could only blush.
“That thought we’re being watched hasn’t gone away.”
“Paranoia’s one thing when we’re out in spook country, but we’re approaching home. That shit’s just crazy here.”
Crossing the border to Merlin should have put her at ease but really it just put her further on edge. Something was wrong but she couldn’t focus in on what.
“You’re all rubbing off on me,” she admitted turning back even as she felt a chill run up her spine.
There was observant and then there was odd. Elliot had placed himself furthest away from the officers at the base of the windows, but when something interesting came up he couldn’t help but lean forward naturally. As he crept closer though the reaction was already immediate from the officer he had come to know as Diane.
Once or twice it might have been a coincidence, but Elliot wasn’t one for that. Throughout the investigative process she had been feeling uncomfortable, not Ed uncomfortable, granted, but still uneasy. She often looked back, and more so, often looked to the exact spot he was before he retreated into the shadows. It was enough to make a man paranoid.
They approached this ‘Talbot’s Bar.’ Apparently he was connected to the facility. Elliot certainly had more questions about this but he naturally didn’t want to attract the attention of the giants in front of him, so he kept his silence.
“I’ll see if he’s inside,” the officer said as he lurched out of his seat after putting the car in park.
“It’s not his shift, so he’s inside,” Di said snidely.
“That would be the simple way of looking at things, yes.” He opened his door and climbed out, while Di got out to take the driver’s side.
Elliot couldn’t hear them outside of the car so he took the time to weigh his options. The male officer, Beck, was going inside to meet someone from the facility. He might be the best person to reveal himself to,or the worst. They were kept in that prison for a reason and given everything Mutatio had said was 100% right, then the people in the facility were not looking out for Archimedes’ best interests.
That left riding it out with the female officer. Mutatio was nowhere to be found at the car wreck, so if he was continuing this plan it meant he had to hitch a ride somewhere else. This Ed apparently was on the scene before the cops. Mutatio likely hitched a ride with him. That idea was certainly the best bet and it was Elliot’s only lead. If he wasn’t there, and there were no signs of him there, he would have to take the long trek back home to the facility.
He stopped that thought there.. Best to think positive. He’d be engaging Mutatio and likely a giant or two in a life or death struggle in no time!
“Alright, I’ll pick up Talbot and hopefully he isn’t three sheets to the wind. You check on Ed and hopefully this mess is done within the next hour,” Beck said.
“Why? You got some place you need to get to?” Di asked. Beck was a married man, but after a couple decades of marriage the idea of him taking his wife anywhere was laughable.
“Reservations at ‘The Old Owl.’ Something about a going away party or some such.”
Di smirked and punched him gently on the arm. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“Figured you deserved one last taste of civilization before you go, but business before pleasure.”
“If Ed’s inside can I just head to ‘The Old Owl’?”
“Don’t jinx me with that shit, if Talbot isn’t piss drunk it’ll be a minor miracle in and of itself.”
Di laughed again before heading back to the squad car. “Tell him if he cooperates he can come with us.”
“I’d rather not have to take out a loan to pay for the tab just the same.”
“You’re sure that’s accurate?” Part of Mutatio would have preferred to drive on through the night to their destination, but not only was that impractical, it also would deny one last opportunity to gain fresh allies.
He was no fool, this task wouldn’t be done within the day. They needed supplies going forward and a clear itinerary. Once this began there would be no room for surprises.
There was also the matter that he expected either Gold or Dynamo to arrive before the dolt could load his truck with all the essentials. Heroes tended to be quite inconvenient that way.
No matter, they likely had the data now, all the information he had seen and set him on his righteous path oh so long ago. If they could not be swayed then then there would be no helping it. At least then the doctor will have had a satisfactory answer.
The more he thought about his actions the more he hated his tactics. What’s done was done, but every minute gave him new ideas of what he could have done better in hindsight. His sense of urgency had forced his hand, but if he had chanced another week he could have gathered far more evidence and made a more convincing case. No, regrets could come later. Right now he could only deal with what was in front of him.
For all his failures he had gained one unexpected resource at the very least, even if she was only aiding him for her own survival.
“The locations are accurate, I can’t tell you specifics. You’d get just as much from any newscast.” Lindsey spoke slowly, her head hurt, she was tired, and she was depressed. She was alive though. If nothing else Mutatio could recognize a survivor when he saw one, and at the moment her only way to make it out of this intact was through him.
However, she was about as trustworthy as a rabid dog and was as equally as disposable.
Her knowledge was limited, her insights basic, and he was well aware that she was giving him the bare minimum and nothing more. Her value was simply the anomaly of her survival, otherwise he might have killed her before she had had the chance to wake up.
Lindsey represented something he had failed to take account of, and so long as the curiosity drove him, and she resisted the urge to stab him in the back, it was worth keeping her around.
“Good, the dolt will finish loading the car with provisions and then we’ll be off. If you want to sleep, now would be the time.”
It’s amazing the things people did when they thought they were alone. Officer Di, for example, fashioned herself out to be a singer.
Elliot didn’t recognize the music, but he could tell he didn’t like it. Some upbeat teenager was going about how hard life was and that love was great while singing very, very badly. Officer Di however, managed to outdo the artist in terms of tortured vocals. He was sorely tempted to forget stealth and secrecy and simply blast the radio out of existence.
Of course the funny thing about that was he could hardly move without her breaking off from singing. The fact that she was driving was the only thing keeping the woman from looking back. No one should be that aware, or that paranoid, especially with everything he had seen in this town so far.
It was a bit more than a suburb, and something less of a big city. It was certainly more developed than what little information the Archimedes archive had to say about the subject. It was full of small tourist shops, restaurants, and disturbingly, several places baring the name Archimedes. That said, there was nothing unsavory about it. There didn’t seem to be a slums, or anything to suggest a high crime rate. More so, given the conversations he listened in on, it didn’t sound like she was all that troubled about the state of the town after she was gone. All in all nothing that would warrant the, albeit justified, paranoia she was displaying.
It was just another mystery on Elliot’s plate, one that would have to languish at the bottom of the pile.
Eventually the car began to slow down. “Ugh I don’t want to be doing this.” the woman muttered. She rested her head on the steering wheel and Elliot felt some degree of amused pity from her. Still he braced himself. He had hoped he could have worked his way to the front seat by now but her unnatural awareness had kept him pinned. He’d have to make the move quickly once she left if he wanted to get out unnoticed.
The car came to a stop as the officer set it in park. She went to rub her face, clearly not enamored with what came next, and with a major huff opened the car door and set about making her way to the entrance of the shop..
Elliot set to work immediately. There was a mesh of steel separating the front and the back seats. With the armor’s strength he was able to tear through it like it was aluminum, but just as carefully, reset it so no one would be the wiser without close inspection.
He watched the officer head toward the entrance, giving her just enough time before following after.
Diane emerged from the car, trying to put on as professional a look as she could. She wasn’t convinced it would do a damn bit of good to stop Ed’s advances, but it was at least worth trying.
As she knocked on the door, there was an obvious clatter from the other side then silence, and no immediate answer.
She tried again but silence once again greeted her. Was he really so freaked out by that damn road?
“Ed this is Diane open up.” She didn’t need official titles with Ed. It wasn’t like there were anyone in this town who didn’t know who she was. Still though, she was met with silence.
“Ed I’m serious this is Deputy Diane open up I know you’re in there.” She added a bit of harshness to her tone. It was entirely possible that Ed was drunk off his ass and it was slowing him up, but even with that excuse he could manage a ‘just a minute’ at least. Again after the demand there was silence. She was starting to think she imagined the initial sounds.
“If you don’t answer me I’m coming in regardless.” She sure as hell didn’t have a warrant or probable cause, but he didn’t know that. She finally heard movement on the other side of the door.
“Just a second,” Ed’s muffled voice suddenly said.
Diane had a few choice words for him but bit her tongue. Drunk off his ass, no doubt about it.
She waited patiently for him to open the door, and sure enough when he did he didn’t look quite in his right mind. “Oh Di, what can I do for you?” He wasn’t slurring at least, but he didn’t seem nearly as sharp as the last time they spoke.
“Just need you to pick up the wreck. We’re done with our investigation.”
“Alright, come in.” He stepped away from the door and allowed her room to enter.
“Come in? Ed you need to come out of there and get in your truck. This isn’t us asking for your favor this is part of your job description.” Despite her anger she entered anyway, but she immediately knew it was the wrong decision. She ducked before she knew something was amiss and that was the only thing that spared her from a wrench being lodged into the side of her head.
“Ed what the hell?!” Diane yelped, but the only response from the driver was another clumsy lunge at her head. The wrench missed her by inches and clanged heavily against the wall. The recoil knocked the wrench from his hands and she took advantage immediately, forcing his wrist behind his back and slamming the old driver up against the wall. “I don’t know what the hell your problem is, but…”
It felt as if an icy hand was crawling down her spine and then locked onto the base of her neck. She jerked, expecting someone behind her, but as she turned she only found thin air. What relief this may have provided ended abruptly as Ed barreled into her and sent them both sprawling to the floor. Ed may have been old but he was built solidly and as he tried to pummel her with his ham hock hands she could only defend her face and absorb the punishment.
“Ed, damn it, ED!” He wore a glassy eyed expression at first she just thought he was piss drunk but there was a sober purpose in his eyes. She hadn’t seen anything like it. Still, she should have been able to shove the heavy bastard off of her if she weren’t fully distracted. That creepy icy grip had her by the back of her neck and it was taking up the majority of her ability to concentrate.
“Curious,” A voice barely above a whisper came from the table. She strained to see, hoping someone could pull Ed off of her. What she saw made her think that she had let one of Ed’s blows slip through.
A tiny man, a well-dressed tiny man at that, peered down at her from the edge. “I can’t get in your head, quite the day of discoveries.” He chuckled as if somewhat amused as Ed tried to cave her skull in.
“Well she’s not exactly portable so it will have to remain a mystery. Ed dear boy crack her head open and be quick about it, we still have to finish packing.” He nudged a hammer toward Ed’s grip and the man obediently reached for it. Diane fought the larger man all the while disbelieving any of this was actually happening. What occurred next hardly alleviated those thoughts.
There was a burst of light and the hammer was knocked off the desk.
“Okay Doc, admittedly I’m not the brightest sort, but I’m not sure how staging random fights between the townsfolk really helps that plan of yours.”
The well-dressed hallucination didn’t show signs of shock, merely relief. “I was worried you wouldn’t show.”
“We don’t have to end this in violence,” the new comer said, “even if that’s what I really, really want.”
“Then let’s talk it out. But first, this is a private conversation. Ed?”
She felt Ed roll off of her and Diane immediately reached for her radio to call for backup. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the small malicious figure wave his hand and a breath later it was like she had been speared by a linebacker into the concrete. She arched her back in pain and struggled to remain conscious, but it wasn’t much of a fight.
“There, no prying ears. Now please tell what you’ve learned dear boy?” With his polite tone Elliot was quite happy to oblige him. Elliot nodded, maintaining a casual posture, which was why he was disappointed when Mutatio raised his shield at the absolute last moment before Dynamo’s blast struck him.
“So close,” the hero grumbled.
“You insolent child. I gave you the proof and this is how you react!”
“I actually haven’t seen the video yet,” the so called hero sheepishly admitted.
“Are you deficient?! This isn’t some game! You can’t-” In his anger the doctor forgot to keep his eyes on Dynamo at all times. For one brief moment he blinked and that was all the time Elliot needed to make up the distance between them. Unlike the previous occasion the shield didn’t hold under the assault.
The doctor’s defense shattered in a brilliant display of pink shards. He scrambled across the ground raising his hand but found Dynamo’s palms trained on him. Blast, Mutatio thought, he had ruined the surprise of his offensive capabilities on the officer and now the brat was waiting for him.
“No this isn’t a game, no I don’t know what you have planned, no I don’t know all the sins these people have committed against Archimedes. I do know however how many people died in Archimedes this morning as a direct result of your actions. Do you care to hear it?”
There was nothing but malice in Dynamo’s voice and that line in particular stopped Mutatio cold.
“I didn’t think so,” Elliot continued. “It’s over Mutatio. Come back and explain what you’ve done, there might be leniency.” He stressed ‘might’ though they both knew that was highly unlikely. “If you can present your case, show us the evidence and justify your plan I’ll be the first one to back you.” That also seemed unlikely to both but Elliot continued as if at least obligated to try.
“You’re a man of reason, a man of high intelligence, release your hold on him and we’ll make the trip back to Archimedes together.”
Elliot saw a flicker of doubt in Mutatio’s eyes, but only a flicker. “Do it!” the doctor screamed. The burly man had kept his distance as Elliot tried to reason with the mad doctor but now boldly threw himself at the young hero. Ed didn’t care for life or limb, there was no hint of defense in his actions. Mutatio was relying on Elliot not hurting a hostage. To be afraid to fully act lest he hurt someone innocent.
A decided mistake on Mutatio’s part.
Elliot rose and avoided Ed’s clumsy swipes. It’s not to say there was no danger, should he misjudge the timing of his dodge one hit would leave him a walking bruise, another would could very well kill him. Lindsey was nothing more than a waif compared to Ed and she very nearly ended his father’s life. His father however hesitated. Elliot would not.
The moment he had a clear shot he rocketed to the underside of Ed’s head and slammed into him. He held nothing back, and silently hoped he hadn’t tore off the man’s head. He need not have worried. Despite the armor’s insane strength the blow did nothing more than knock the man on his ass. Considering how unguarded he was he was sure the cop could have done the exact same thing if she was aware. Blow to Elliot’s ego it may have been, it was the result he desired at least. Ed rolled on the ground clearly in pain and not a threat to get up immediately. So it was just him and the doctor.
“It’s over Doc you can-” Elliot cursed as it was all he could do. The doctor had decided he wouldn’t go quietly and Elliot should have known that meant he wouldn’t sit idly by and let some random giant decide his fate for him. During the skirmish he had made his way to a few fuel tanks, which in the garage there were plenty. He had cut open a few and their contents were now spilling on to the floor. Mutatio stared him down before, with a just burst of energy, he set the floor ablaze.
Elliot rocketed toward him and this time the doctor offered no defense. Elliot lifted him by the collar and roared, “The hell is wrong with you?!”
“I’m just giving you a very simple choice,” Mutatio said nonplused. “You have me and I’m not going to fight back. This can all be over, you just have to let that woman on the floor there burn to death.”
The doctor very well could have been describing the color of the sky for the emotion he put in the stakes. His smug grin told Elliot everything he needed to know. He raised his fist suddenly but the doctor laughed it off.
“Oh please, even if you didn’t need me alive you don’t have the stomach for that. Either we fly off together boy, or you best get started. I don’t think flying that poor officer to safety will be as easy as you think.”
The two locked gazes, a breath in between when the inevitable would happen. Elliot lowered his fist.
“We’ve made our choices boy. No turning back now.”
Elliot didn’t acknowledge him only threw him to the ground and flew down to the officer. He looked back to see Ed stumbling toward the doctor, bloodied nose, but under Mutatio’s thrall it didn’t seem to affect the giant. He could still stop them, all it would take is letting another innocent person die because of this mess.
That wasn’t going to happen.
Ed and the Doctor ducked out, apparently having their getaway already planned, leaving Elliot with a burning building and an unconscious body about as tall as a ten story building. No pressure, right? He flew down, not knowing the how in the world he was going to pull this off. He went to her shoulder trying to rouse her awake, figuring he still had some time before it got really bad. He forgot the simple fact that that they were in a repair shop. Typically, things like fuel were always on hand.
When the flames got to their first gas tank, Elliot honestly wished he had just killed the bastard.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.