Lily Lyon, the real identity of Rush, the fastest girl in the world, was sat on her suitcase in the hallway of Billy’s home, and she was not very happy. She had been ordered by her bosses at MI13b onto a week’s leave for medical purposes where she would be staying at the retreat run by her therapist Doctor Peters. She did not want to go, she wasn’t totally sure why, but with a powerful supervillain terrorising her city, she had a good excuse. Billy, along with his trainee, Jack, were trying to placate her but she was not in the mood for any of his rational arguments.
“With Terminal Velocity on the loose I can’t go swanning off to visit Doctor Peters,” she protested.
“You’ve had a lot of turmoil recently,” Billy reminded her, “what happened to Omega is still so fresh, then your grandfather, and now Kommandant Fuchs…”
“I don’t need help coping with the death of my archenemy, it’s not like I’m going to miss his robots trying to kill me.”
“No, but he was a major part of your life,” Billy assured her, “you spent so much time focused on him, it may not be a constructive or supportive relationship, but it was an important relationship just the same.”
“He was only a major part of my life because he was trying to kill me. Besides, I’ve meditated over it last night and this morning, I’ve accepted it. A plant must wilt for a new sapling to grow.”
“Interesting metaphor,” Jack pointed out.
“It takes longer than that to deal with the fact you’ll never see him again. That this chapter of your life is ended and it’s never coming back.”
“Besides,” Jack shrugged, “the boss is insisting, the orders are from K herself.”
“I don’t care,” Lily told him in no uncertain terms, “it’s not the first time I’ll have gone against one of K’s orders.”
“Not even the fourth time,” Billy sighed wearily.
“And with someone as dangerous as Terminal Velocity out there I can’t leave the city unprotected.”
“Well if that’s all you’re worried about maybe it’s the perfect chance to let me and Shannon have a crack at protecting a town by ourselves for the week.”
“NO!” Billy was adamant on this point, “you, neither of you, are ready for that yet.”
“But with you there backing us up, we’ll have it made.”
“See,” Lily pouted a little, “there’s no one to look after it while I’m gone.”
Everyone turned to look at the front door, where the new voice had just come from, and saw that Pari Patel had just slipped inside. She was another agent of MI13b, known as Ani-Gal, the wild east hero. She usually worked in the London borough of Northam, but she’d had time away to visit her roots in India and had not yet returned to active duty. Billy shook his head that rather than simply knocking on the door, she had chosen to say it instead. He felt that was typical of Pari, if chattering was an option she’d take it, she’d even try to take it when it wasn’t.
“So I read in despatches that you’re off for a week,” Pari smiled brightly as they all stared at her, “so, as I’m not due back in Northam for a little time yet, maybe you could do with someone to stand in for you here while you’re off seeing the shrink. Why do they call a psychiatrist a shrink anyway, I’ve never understood that. Still I’m sure they had a good reason. So what’s the big bad round here these days? I heard something about a speedster. Don’t worry, I can be quick as a cheetah and I’ll make sure they don’t get away with anything while you’re…”
“PARI!” Billy called out, having tried repeatedly to interrupt and answer her points, from telling her he wasn’t sure if she could just transfer in like that, to explaining the term shrink, to trying to tell her about Terminal Velocity. Every time he tried she just kept talking. He was frustrated with her and he couldn’t wait for her to draw a breath, it seemed like she never did, so he was forced to shout.
“Yes?” she smiled sweetly.
“It’s fine Pari,” Lily told her, “I’m not going.”
“You’re not? But when I read the email on K’s computer the word mandatory was underlined. Twice.”
“I thought you said you read it in despatches?” Billy questioned.
“Despatches, being in the bosses room when she’s not there and getting to snoop at her computer, what’s the diff? You should see some of the things she’s been googling, seriously someone should have a word with her about deleting her internet history. We’re talking about…”
“PARI!” Billy snapped again.
“Either way I don’t think you have much choice in the matter, the person coming to get you has probably been told to bring you in no matter what. I can see a cloth with chloroform in your future. In fact strike that I can even go so far as to say I can see it right now. Only it’s not your driver, it’s Billy that’s got it.”
Rush glanced round just in time to see Billy reaching for her with the soaked rag. She wasn’t in time to slip his grasp however and he clamped his hand over her nose and mouth. It only took a few seconds for Lily to fall unconscious to the fumes.
“I’m sorry,” Billy sighed, “I was ordered to make sure you went. Any means necessary. Hope you’ll understand when you wake up.”
Jack was tasked with carrying her to the car, leaving Billy and Pari to talk. He tried to explain what they knew about Terminal Velocity, but every time he got more than two sentences out Pari started talking again. Billy was just about to give up when Pari said something that surprised him.
“So her next target is almost certainly going to be one of the banks in the north part of town.”
Billy looked at her unsure how to respond.
“Well from what you’ve said she’s been mostly hitting banks, and you said she’d hit the ones in the east and west sides, that only leaves the north in Peka right? I have got that right haven’t I? Your town is essentially split into three.”
“Yes that’s right, how did you...?”
“You told me. Just like you said about her hitting the banks.”
Billy couldn’t believe she’d been listening almost as well as she’d been talking. He began telling her which bank he thought would be the next target but Pari wanted to be shown rather than told. They headed out in Jack’s car.
He was proud of it, it was a sporty number, though given his age and the fact that handlers don’t make the big money, and trainees make even less, it was not one of the better ones. It was also almost twenty years old. Still he talked about it like it was his baby, even stroking the faux leather of the seats. So much so that, when he saw the sort of area they were visiting, he decided it might be best if he stayed in the car while Billy and Pari went inside. He muttered something about not wanting to come back to the car and find the windows had been put in and the tires removed. Billy and Pari shared a look. It was a rough area, certainly, but not so rough as to have windows smashed on the high street in broad daylight just for being there. They had both been to a lot worse places than this and it underlined for Billy just how far from being ready Jack actually was.
Billy and Pari spent the next half an hour in the bank, chatting together like the close friends they were. They each took turns in spotting security risks and Billy released a number of miniature drones that clearly seemed to be inspired by the sort of thing Fuchs would use. They were then asked to leave by security, pointing out to the duo, neither of whom even looked to be in their mid-twenties, that it wasn’t a youth club. Billy had to admit to being amused, especially with how Pari was insisting that she’d been thrown out of a lot of better places than that bank, but he was satisfied as he managed to get his cameras inside. The scene was repeated at a couple more banks the trio worked out were likely targets and then they simply had to wait for Terminal Velocity to act.
That evening Pari went out as Ani-Gal, her somewhat Bollywood inspired costume getting her a lot of attention as she patrolled the darker areas of the city. She managed to stop three muggings and two carjackings, complaining all the time at the criminals, at Billy in her ear, or at Jack who she knew was also listening in about the criminals she was having to fight.
“They’re pretty much just kids,” she told Billy after she’d used the strength of a gorilla to lift a car he was trying to take for a joyride, “I know this city has had underinvestment for the last, what, fifty years, but don’t they have anything better to do with their time?”
“They could join a gang,” Billy chided back, “I hear they are pretty big in Northam, the big one round here are the Red Snakes. They’re a really nasty bunch.”
“Really,” Jack cut in, “I thought you said they were one of the most half baked gangs in the country when Lily was fighting them the other night and you said she didn’t need your help on stopping them.”
“Jack,” Billy said sternly, “what have I said about contradicting me? Especially when I’m trying to impress a heroine from out of town.”
Pari giggled at this while plucking the scared looking seventeen-year-old from the car and telling him to go home and rethink his life choices. She then began complaining about the lack of Terminal Velocity activity.
“All I want is one good chance against her,” Ani-Gal pointed out, moving like a boxing kangaroo for a moment, “is that too much to ask for?”
“Apparently,” Billy said, the smile clear in his voice, “though I don’t mind so much, she is a very dangerous villain.”
“And you're saying I’m not a dangerous heroine?”
“No,” a female voice called to her from across the street, “you talk too much.”
Ani-Gal turned and saw her stood in the middle of the dark street. Terminal Velocity in her kabuki mask and romper suit had her hands on her hip, like she was daring Ani-Gal to try and take her on. Pari stared at her for a moment.
“Heard you were looking for me,” Terminal Velocity gloated, “looks like you found me, or is it that I found you?”
“I’m taking you down,” Ani-Gal stated as she touched her necklace and used its power to fire a bolt of energy at her foe.
Terminal Velocity sidestepped it almost as if she hadn’t even registered it at a conscious level.
“Maybe you can dodge my blasts like that but let’s see you do it when I have the speed of a cheetah.”
She reached for her pendant again, but before she could place a hand on it, something caught her hand. It had taken less than a second for Terminal Velocity to cross the street and snatch at her wrist, stopping her activating her powers.
“Hey that’s not fair,” Ani-Gal complained, “well guess what, I can still use my own animal spirits power without touching the pendant.”
Ani-Gal had become one with the spirit of the crane, as such she could tap into its grace and agility any time. She started to lift them both from the ground. Terminal Velocity just laughed and grabbed the pendant from Ani-Gal’s neck, pulling it off and letting her go. She dropped the couple of feet to the ground and was almost instantly across the street again.
“Hey,” Ani-Gal protested, knowing she couldn’t tap into the great power without the pendant, leaving her only with the power of flight until she recovered it, “give that back, that’s mine. It won’t work for you you know?”
“You want it,” Terminal Velocity goaded as she dodged out the way of the swoops Ani-Gal made to reclaim the item, “I’ll tell you what, meet me, Saturday night, the docks, I’ll give you a chance to get it back.”
Without another word, Terminal Velocity ran off. Ani-Gal gave chase, protesting all the way, but even being able to follow her as the crow flies, not having to adjust for terrain as Terminal Velocity was, she couldn’t follow her more than a block before she was totally left behind. She cursed under her breath and headed back to Billy’s to see what more they could do.
“She nicked my pendant,” Pari bemoaned as she removed her mask as soon as she was in Billy’s den, “she just took it and ran off with it. I can’t use any of the other animal powers now. We have to find her before Saturday to get it back.”
“We can’t,” Jack sighed, “she moved too fast, she got out of town and we can’t trace her heat signature.”
“We’ll figure out a way to get it back,” Billy assured her, passing her a staff like weapon, “I call it a shock stick, more powerful than a taser, at least you won’t be defenceless while we figure out what to do. Training starts with it in morning. For now try and get some sleep, things will be clearer when we wake up.”
Pari didn’t feel better the next day; she had lost her pendant. It was her link to the great power she had been raised to believe in and she had earned it through great trials after she became one with her spirit animal. Without it, even though she could still channel the spirit of the crane, she didn’t feel whole. She had to admit that Billy’s training with the shock stick helped. It was nice to focus on something else and developing her skill with a stave was going to let her continue heroing even without the pendant. For the most part she trained against Jack as Billy guided them both. She had always had a flair for weapons like that, so was picking up the technique quickly. It was one of the advantages of being raised by an uncle who turned out to be a supervillain. She impressed Billy enough that he even let her patrol that night once again.
It was an easy and quiet night. They were all glad of that. A couple of burglars that she was able to easily take out using the staff and its taser like shock. She was already feeling a lot more confident and was even starting to talk smack to the bad guys again. The next day she trained more, Jack was starting to get tired of being shocked, but he figured it was all part of paying his dues. After that she patrolled. Another quiet one and she got more confident again. The next day the process repeated, though, as it was getting later in the week, things were getting more active. Carjackings, muggings and burglary had Ani-Gal thinking it was a busy night, but then they heard that Terminal Velocity was at another bank.
“Don’t,” Billy tried to warn her, but Pari wanted her pendant back.
She flew as fast as she could and caught Terminal Velocity just as she was leaving.
“Stop right there,” she boldly told her, “and give me back my pendant.”
“I told you,” Terminal Velocity replied, Ani-Gal could hear her smile beneath the mask, “Saturday at the docks.”
“No, we do this now.”
Ani-Gal swung the shock stick, trying to intimidate the villain. Terminal Velocity just laughed. She then ran at Ani-Gal, hitting her in the face and continued to run. She was long gone before Ani-Gal could even get up.
This led to Ani-Gal training harder as the week continued. She needed to be ready for the fight at the docks. She was relentless against the criminals during patrol, becoming more and more skilled with the weapon. Finally, she felt ready for the conflict. Billy and Jack accompanied her to the docks ready for the fight, they each had shock sticks of their own. As they walked passed an open shipping container however Terminal Velocity struck. She charged into Billy, hitting him with enough force to wind him and knock him into the container. As he tumbled in she moved to Jack, softly pressing her lips to his before shoving him into the container too. Jack wasn’t sure if it was the gentle, almost tender, kiss or the shove that left him too shocked to react as she slammed the door of the container and locked Billy and Jack in.
“Let’s keep this between us shall we?” Terminal Velocity smuggly suggested.
“Suits me,” Ani-Gal already had her shock stick drawn and was holding a defensive stance, determined not to be caught out again.
“I take it you want this?” she held up the pendant.
“That’s mine, give it back or I will have to take it from you.”
“You want it? Catch.”
Terminal Velocity tossed it up and towards Ani-Gal in a surprisingly high arc. As soon as she saw it going up, Ani-Gal moved to try and catch it, letting the pendant become her entire focus. Terminal Velocity began moving as soon as Ani-Gal’s eyes started to turn toward the pendant. She had reached her in less than a tenth of a second, hitting her with a punch to the side of the head. Another punch quickly followed, this time to the chin. Then another to the gut. An uppercut broke the jaw. A straight punch broke the nose. A lifting knee cracked three ribs. Finally a rabbit punch knocked her down and out. This all happened within the two seconds it took the pendant to rise and fall. It fell to the ground beside the broken and battered heroine. Terminal Velocity, after getting one last kick in, was already gone before it landed.
Billy and Jack were out of the container within twenty minutes. Billy converted the shock sticks to allow him to cut through the metal box, making a new door to escape from, but he knew it was already too late. He was phoning the ambulance before he even saw her body. He was just glad she was still alive.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he cradled her, tears forming in his supposedly emotionless eyes, “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.”
Jack just stared at him, he’d seen this as a game, even the danger he’d put himself in didn’t seem real. Now the reality was settling in.
“Get her… next time…” a barely conscious Ani-Gal mouthed back as best she could through the agony she felt when she tried to talk, “got pendant…” she wrapped her fingers round it, “means… we won…” she tried to smile but it was too much. She passed out once again.
Lily Lyon, the real identity of Rush, the fastest girl in the world, felt good. Better than she’d felt in a long time. She was sat, crosslegged, meditating at the foot of her bed. Just behind her on her drawers was an orange and black plant that it felt so restful to meditate in front of. She didn’t know why, but it reminded her of happy times and good feelings. She’d meditated in front of it everyday now for a week. While meditating she didn’t need to worry about things like Terminal Velocity, the speedster thief she’d not been able to catch yet. The peace couldn’t last. Her phone began to ring. It was Billy. She got up and moved over to answer it.
“Three rings,” Billy said, she could hear the raised eyebrow in his voice, “am I interupting something?”
“I was just meditating, you should try it sometime, might help get that bug out of your butt that seems to have crawled up there and left you so grumpy.”
“Who says I don’t meditate when I have the time, I just have a very busy life, I don’t have the luxury of making time to relax. Between training for MI13b, tracking this impossible crimewave from Terminal Velocity and keeping tabs on the crimes going on locally, nationally and internationally I don’t get much time you know. We can’t all be superfast.”
“Even more reason to find time to let go, it’s got me feeling the best I’ve felt for months.”
“You do seem to have been doing a lot more meditating lately. Is it something your shrink has been recommending?”
“No, I don’t think so, it’s just something I’ve picked up along the way, not totally sure where from. So I’m guessing this is not a social call.”
“Fuchs has escaped.”
“Again? Didn’t we do this recently? I’m not stuck in a time loop am I?”
“He doesn’t seem to have had help this time. It looks like he’s been planning it since even before Fenrir bust him out. It was a flying machine designed like a giant fly.”
“He really has a thing about bugs.”
“Fortunately it had a rather distinctive energy signature. Easy to track and trace.”
“You know where he is?”
“We followed the signal to a warehouse on the docks, sending you the address now, but I need to warn you…”
“Got it, I’ll meet you there.”
She hung up the phone and moments later she was in costume and heading in the direction of the warehouse. It felt good to be going after a villain she knew she could catch, especially as she had the address. She was somewhat disconcerted that when she got there Billy, along with a group of soldiers and firefighters, were already there and the warehouse was on fire.
“What happened?” she demanded.
“The army were brought in. Poor Jack, I’d been training him to be a handler like me, he went in, didn’t wait for backup. He gave the all clear, found evidence of a fast car setting off and then he triggered some kind of defence mechanism. There was an explosion.”
“I’m sorry,” Rush reached out and put a comforting hand on Billy’s shoulders, “are there any clues left?”
“No idea. We’ve not been able to get in, we’ve been fighting the blaze since the explosion.”
“I could run in, creating a vacuum in my wake and dousing the flames.”
Just before she could carry out the action there was a loud rumble and the vehicle Kommandant Fuchs escaped in burst through the roof of the burning warehouse. Billy was right, it looked like a fly. It seemed to have a large and bulbous body, big enough to lay within, while your head would be in the secondary chamber, designed like the fly’s head dominated by tinted glass windshields, compartmentalised like an insect's eye. The wings seemed to be sheets of plastic formed over a metal flame, though there flapping seemed mostly for show as the propulsion was coming from rockets attached to the underside. It seemed to be rocking in the air as it moved towards them, both Rush and Billy realised it was about to crash at the same moment. They moved as one, guiding the soldiers and firefighters back out of the way of it as it plummeted to the concrete. As it hit the petrol tank ruptured and the fuel began leaking, streaming towards the flames.
“It’ll blow,” Billy pointed out, “Rush, hypermode, get whoever is in there out before…”
Before Billy could finish that sentence, Rush had found the release catch, opening the shell of the vehicle and grabbed the lad, no more than her age, out of it and deposited him at Billy’s feet.
“...too late,” Billy concluded, realising Jack was at his feet.
The fly then exploded. Jack looked up to Billy and smiled.
“That was close Billy-boy,” he said enthusiastically, “lucky you were here to pull my buns out of the fire.”
“Very lucky if Rush hadn’t…”
“Rush,” he sounded excited, looking over to the heroine that saved him, “you’re Rush, wow, I’m a big fan, read all the files. It’s an honour to be saved by you.”
“Er, thanks, I think,” Rush tried not to blush at his enthusiastic response, she had to admit he was rather handsome, even covered in soot.
“So what happened in there?” Billy demanded.
“Oh that, I found his computer, didn’t have his password so tried to hack it and, well, boom. As soon as I heard the bomb trip I jumped into the fly and took cover. Barely made it out alive.”
“So we lost all the data on the computer?” Billy sounded exasperated, “he’s given up the slip and we now haven’t got a single clue to where he’s gone.”
“I wouldn’t go that far, he got away in a custom built Hastings Puma, the tire tracks told us that. The Puma is an American style saloon car, wouldn’t stand out but there really won’t be many of them. They were made to crack the American market, never got a major release over here.”
“Sounds like you know your stuff.”
“He’s a petrol head,” Billy seemed to sigh as he said it.
“And a good job I am. Want me to run the traffic cams to try and trace it?”
Billy sighed and nodded. He was already heading off to the truck he and Billy had arrived in, it was a mobile lab that MI13b had provided. It had plenty of basic science equipment to let them test anything they found onsite. It also had a computer built into one of the walls, it was wirelessly hooked to the main MI13b network, allowing them to remotely access all the data they had in their systems.
“So who is he?” Rush asked as she took a cereal bar out of her bag and began eating, “You never told me you had a sidekick.”
“Jack Stewart, I promised his sister I’d take him under my wing and teach him to be a handler. He’s reckless and will get himself killed one of these days.”
“With you teaching him? He’ll be fine. See how I’ve turned out.”
“He’s even worse than you are.” Billy sighed and looked to the truck, “he’s keen, really keen, but he wants to do everything already and he can’t do that. He’s had three trips to the hospital already for trying to fight a bunch of thugs by himself with just basic self-defence training. If not for his sister…”
“Who is his sister?” Rush was intrigued, “got a girlfriend you’ve not told me about. How will you break it to Jess?”
“Jess is dating someone else, I don’t think she cares if I’m dating someone.”
“Of course she cares, she’s your friend too you know.”
“Okay, doesn’t care might be a bit much, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother her if I was dating someone.”
“And are you?”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit soon after Victoria?”
“I think it might be the perfect way to get over something like that.”
“That’s why you said no to Matty?”
“That’s different. He doesn’t know about my double life. If she asked you to train her brother she must have some kind of knowledge of it.”
“You are learning. Picking up clues and working it out. Entirely down to my influence of course.”
“Now you’re just avoiding the question.”
“Her name is Shannon. She wants me to train her brother so he can be her handler. She’s in training as we speak. More than that I can’t say, I’ve already said too much. We don’t talk about the girls in training.”
“Fine, but we’re talking about this later, I’m not letting it go.”
“I never thought you would. Now shall we see if Jack has cracked the case?”
They walked over to the truck and could hear a lot of shouting coming from it. When Billy opened the back door they could see Jack throwing a handful of peanuts from the dish by the computer at the screen. He seemed to be shouting at it for not letting him access the traffic cams in the area. Billy struggled to stiffle a laugh and then took over from him. He seemed to have no more luck that Jack did.
“This is just ridiculous,” Jack moaned. He had wiped most of the soot from his face now, he was even more good lucking underneath, he looked like he should be in a boyband, from his floppy blonde hair to his babyface good looks. Rush noted that she had to help Billy train him further.
“Not ridiculous,” Billy corrected as he began running another program alongside it, “it’s actually rather helpful.”
“If you find blank screens helpful,” Jack grumbled.
“I do when they tell you everything.”
“How does a blank screen tell you anything?”
“Rush? Care to tell him? I’m rather busy.”
“We’re dealing with a genius, chances are he’s the one stopping the cams picking up an image so we can’t trace his movements. No doubt he’ll have fitted something into his car that will be sending out a signal to block them. Given how it’s wiping so many cameras it must be working over several blocks.”
“Very good,” Billy smiled to her smugly, “and what does that mean we can do?”
“Well if it’s in his car it’ll be wiping out more cameras as it moves, leaving a trail of dead air that we can follow giving us a rough area he’ll have moved to. You’re plotting his route.”
“Exactly. Sometimes what you can’t see is more important than what you can. Great work.”
Rush beamed happily at the compliment. She wasn’t used to him being so free with them, she figured he was showing off for Jack. It didn’t matter to her though, being told how well she’d done always felt good.
“And we’ve got it.” Billy pointed to a square on the map of Peka. It covered an almost four mile radius.
“And how do we check that area with no cameras?” Jack complained.
“The old fashioned way,” Rush smiled, “see you there.”
She ran off to check the area on foot, she knew the car she was looking for and she had the area, it should be a simple task.
She was right, it took her less than twenty minutes to check the area and find the car. She tried to signal Billy she’d found but she wasn’t surprised to find her signal was being blocked. The car had been parked up on a small industrial estate with several warehouses and offices. They all looked like they were shut and abandoned, something that seemed to be happening all too often in the City of Peka, it was almost like the city was shutting down one building at a time. She sighed at that thought and began working out which building to check first. As she did she didn’t notice a small, spider-like creature crawling out from under the car. It scuttled towards her on its thin metal legs and leapt at her. It wrapped its legs around her back, pinning her arms to her side and knocking her to the ground with a slight shriek.
Another, larger, spider-bot came out of one of the large doors to a warehouse, climbing over the trapped heroine, lowering itself onto her and locking the spider-bot holding her to its undercarriage. An airborne chloroform spray released out of a vent near her face and moments later the heroine had passed out. The spider-bot brought her inside to face its master.
Rush awoke with a groan, her arms still pinned by the mini spider-bot, though now it was attached to a wall, about ten foot off the ground. She took in the room and saw the spider-bot that had sprayed her powered down at one end of the room. Beside it was an eight foot tall android that was wired up to some big powerful computers and other technology that Rush didn’t recognise but knew Billy would salivate to get his hands on. Working the equipment was a man she recognised.
“Kommandant Fuchs,” she called at him, trying to get his attention.
The old scientist turned to her, a dry smile on his lips.
“So you’re awake already are you?” he seemed to be more amused by her presence than he was annoyed by it, “you do have such a remarkable cardiovascular system. I will enjoy studying your body very soon.”
“No one gets to study my body without my consent and I most certainly do not consent to you doing it.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll not complain why I do, you’ll be dead.”
“I didn’t realise that was what you were into. Don’t worry, you’ll get no fetish shaming from me.”
“Joke all you like child, it doesn’t matter, it’ll be over for you soon.”
“It’ll be over for you soon. Have you forgotten the heart attack you had last time you escaped, if I hadn’t got you back to the hospital…”
“Oh I know, and it was your mercy that will prove to be your undoing. I will not hesitate to kill you when you are helpless before me.”
She wondered if she should point out how she was unconscious and his prisoner and she was still alive but decided that may be counterproductive as it might have prompted him to kill her. She decided it was better to keep him talking.
“Still doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got a dodgy ticker, overexerting yourself like this is just going to hurry the departure from this mortal coil.”
“I am a genius,” he laughed, getting ready to monologue at her, she was so glad he loved the sound of his own voice, “you think something so mundane could stop me. I am not weak like the Hare.”
Rush gritted her teeth, hearing him talk about her grandfather always made her angry, but she needed to know more before she could do anything. He was still working as he continued his monologue.
“Though I admit, his funeral, along with needing you to save me, has made me confront my own mortality. I know this old body is wearing thin and I need to get myself a new one. That is why I am here. Why I have this machine that can transform my mental processes into a digitised version. Why I have hooked up an android body to be transferred into. This body can not last, but my mind will go on. I will not achieve immortality through my inventions, through my work, through fear of my name. I will achieve it by being the first human to live forever in a cyberkingdom.”
He pulled a headpiece that was attached to the strange computer systems down onto his head and hit the button to begin the process. Rush knew that she had waited as long as she could. She vibrated as fast as she could, snapping the titanium pincers holding her in place. She dropped to the floor, but landed in a crouch, already ready to move against the villain.
“Stop her,” Fuchs cried as the spider-bot came online, “she can not be allowed to interfere.”
Rush ran straight at the spider-bot. She’d faced machines like this many times, they were the main weapon Kommandant Fuchs relied upon, many had a simple off switch, though these later designs had corrected that design flaw. Still she was easily able to avoid the webbing it sprayed at her and the blade like legs that attempted to stamp at her. She was busy building up her momentum as she moved around the space, avoiding and evading the attacks it was making. Finally, when she was moving fast enough, she charged straight at the creature, leaping at its underside, hitting it with a shoulder block. The force she’d built up instantly transferred over to the machine, denting it heavily and throwing it back into the generator the computers were plugged in to.
As the spider-bot hit the machine sparks began to fly. Fuchs began to scream too. Rush glanced to him and saw how his hand twitched and so did that of the android, the process had begun but the spider-bot had damaged the machines. She could see they were about to explode. She dashed in, pulling Fuchs’ free and getting him outside as the pressure built in the systems. She was barely out the door when the whole building exploded. She could feel the heat as it tried to engulf her. She wasn’t surprised to see Billy and Jack waiting for her. She passed Fuchs to them but Billy could already see it was too late.
“He’s not breathing,” he told her, “he’s gone. It’s over.”
As if on cue to Billy’s announcement, the building that exploded then collapsed in on itself leaving nothing but rubble in it’s place. Billy wasn’t going to get to see even the remains of the high tech base.
“So is that a big win for us then?” Jack suggested, “we beat the bad guy.”
Rush looked at him, shaking her head. She took no joy in the death of her archnemesis, in fact she chalked him up on the side of people she couldn’t save. She turned around and walked away slowly, wishing she could visit her grandfather about this, he’d have known what to say.
“Did I say something wrong?” Jack asked as he and Billy followed her, all three knowing they’d have to make a report of this.
“You still have a lot to learn about being a good guy,” Billy smiled at him, “don’t worry, we’ll teach you.”
As they walked away, none of them looked back and noticed how the rubble was shifting. It was moving as if something below was trying to break free. Finally it did. The metallic arm of the android smashed its way to the surface.
Barcu sat at his desk, his once proud mane of seaweed green hair had long since turned silver. He had been in the embassy for a long time, far longer than anyone else working there. Many would see his posting there, in the Sea Elf embassy in Osiinaah, as a punishment; Barcu knew the truth of course, the fact was his king trusted him to look after his affairs on land more than any other. Barcu was an experienced mage, a former general in the king’s army, and a skilled diplomat, he was also an Elderin the Order of Animus. He thought he’d pretty much seen it all. Though the ruckus coming from down the corridor was, at the very least, unusual. He got to his feet to see what was going on when a young Sea Elf woman, by the looks of her mystic aura she was a Siren, burst through the door, she appeared to have blood spattered over her form. Hal, Barcu’s secretary, trailed in behind her looking apologetic.
“I’m sorry sir,” Hal stammered, “I tried to stop her, I really did.”
“I need to talk to you about Krath and the Deliverance,” this woman demanded.
The name caught Barcu’s attention.
“It’s okay Hal,” Barcu told the frightened young man who was looking at the Siren, “I will deal with this.”
Hal was happy to get out of there. He nodded to his boss and shrank back through the door, eyes still on the woman that had stormed the embassy.
“We are not used to such arrivals,” Barcu said as he poured two glasses of black wine, “if you were not of Sea Elf stock you wouldn’t even have made it passed the front door.”
She knocked the glass of wine from his hand as he moved to offer it to her.
“Save the pretty words,” she snapped at him, “I want to know if you have a file on Krath!”
“And if we do?”
“I want it!”
She stared into his eyes, a rage burning there. He was a legend among his people, very few would unflinchingly stare back at him, this young lady was in a desperate situation.
“What did he do to you?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“No, you want to lose yourself in an oblivion of rage, to seek him out and face him for some perceived crime. Tell me what he did. Even on land crimes of a Sea Elf upon a Sea Elf fall within our traditions and laws.”
He placed a hand on her forehead and she felt a feeling of calm pass through her like a wave, washing away her rage and fear. All it left behind was sadness in the young woman, named Aelia. Tears began to flood from her eyes once more as she collapsed into the arms of the stranger, sobbing into his comforting hug. She told him everything. How she had fallen in love with a human, the captain of a ship, how Krath had been her first mate and turned on her, how he had had Aelia’s love killed, how she was going to have her vengeance upon him. Already the calm was passing and she was beginning to rage once more. She pushed away and got back to her feet, her dark determination returning.
“Can you help me?” she demanded.
“Officially,” Barcu began sadly, “no, his victim was not a Sea Elf, those that actually killed her were not Sea Elves, to be seen to act in this could cause an incident with the surface dwellers. If they were to side with the Merfolk it could tip the balance of power.”
She rolled her wet eyes, she had no time for the politics in play here.
“However,” Barcu continued, “off the record, I have been tracking Krath with some interest. He seems to be meddling with powers beyond this plane, I believe that is why he has made a move to become captain of the ship now. Whatever he is planning will be going down soon. Take this gift, it is a compass, it will allow you to track what you seek no matter where it goes. With this you can follow the Deliverance into Tar’trus itself.”
“That’s it,” she snapped as she took the small metal disc, “I could compel you to give me more aid with my song, or even bring this place down, I want…”
“No,” Barcu cut her off, his hundreds of years as a mystic warrior showing on his fierce and powerful face, “you are facing an enemy with untold powers, I have given you the means to find him, I fear you may be the only one able to stop him. I wish I could offer you more than that, but this is a battle I can not be part of. The great whale protects me from your spell, but destroying this building will only lead to your arrest and slow your quest down. I suggest you gather what allies you have in this city and go after the ship sooner rather than later.”
1, Go to The Rusted Trident looking for allies
2, Go after the Deliverance alone
3, Destroy the embassy anyway
4, Try to persuade Barcu to send someone with you
Areon CYOA - Chapter 3: Finding AnswersAelia's thin brows furrowed into a hard stare as the only sounds around her were the wind rushing in from the sea, and the tortured gurgles of the man dying in front of her. She didn't know his name. Heather would have said it of course, and she would know which of her many stories he was involved in, but she had never cared to match this face to a name. Only one face on the Deliverance mattered. A face that would never smile again. A voice that would never sing with her again.
It was his fault.
Would she have done the same thing in his situation? Her lips turned down as her frown deepened. Would she have killed a close cousin if Krath had threatened Heather? Maybe. Even probably. But she would have fully accepted if that person's lover had then come to kill her. She wouldn't expect mercy. She wouldn't have deserved mercy. She would have been a coward, willing to murder just to get out of confronting evil.
His blood seeped into the sand.
He cried out in sudden pain as his body w