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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.”

“Um, Dad…”

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.”


Chapter End Notes:

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