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by Matthew Rossi
What was that quest again?
This is out of our reach,
This is out of our reach,
This is out of our reach,
and it's cold
This is getting to be,
This is getting to be,
This is getting to be,
out of control
Nirvana, Negative Creep
Things fall apart,
The centre cannot hold
W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
Danny choked up on the bat and prayed he didn't look stupid. He hadn't played baseball in years...and he'd sucked at it then. He'd missed twice now, and Warren looked perfectly capable of whiffing him out. What had possessed him to arrange a pick-up baseball game for the entire Colony?
Jarod's death had. Danny knew a lot of the people were scared, and he needed them to hang together. He also knew that a lot of the people didn't know him very well...he'd let Jarod do a lot of the visible leading while he hung back, the brooding psi shadow. Now Jarod was gone, and Eric was killing himself with guilt.
Danny realized that he was going to whiff out, and so he did the only thing he could. He reached into Warren's brain and copied all the baseball knowledge acquired in a lifetime of being one of Texas' fast risers in the sport. Warren pitched, his whole body a snake striking...and Danny clobbered the slider he'd uncorked. It flew over the fence of the Chicago metro playground lot.
"What!?" Warren nearly dropped from shock as Danny trotted around the bases. Everybody cheered. Danny saw that it was working..he was getting them to put a face to the name they'd heard. He couldn't replace Jarod, but he could get them to accept him.
And a little mind control wouldn't hurt, either.
Eric sat listlessly on a mountaintop in Antarctica. The intense cold didn't affect him, nor did the wind, nor did the hole in the Ozone layer. He sat there looking directly into the sun, with eyes that saw more of it than any other...eyes that saw the spectrum around it, all the EMG and hard rads, all of it. Mirry had explained that he was using clairsentinence somehow, but Eric hadn't paid attention at the time...he was too pumped. He had loved his power, gotten off on it.
And now Jarod was dead. Jarod, father of two, was lying in a grave somewhere. Oh, nobody blamed Eric, though they should have. They blamed Deathbringer, or fate, or bad luck. Eric looked in Danny's eyes, or Mirry's, or Jimmy's. He looked in Jarod's son Tom's face, and saw no blame. And it was killing him.
Eric had seen his own face, vainglorious (his newfound powers had allowed him to read all the books in the Main Library in Chicago and retain it all...but he tried to forget; he wanted to) in his power, smashing Hunyadi (Whose entire life was burned into Eric's mind now...everything he'd ever done was a photo in that perfect memory, remembered through the touch and the psychometry that he didn't even know he had then) and then, the Green Fire, consuming the old bastard.
They weren't sure what to make of him. Sure, he'd saved the kids...but he was one of THEM, an Omega...their replacements. No one knew what made them different, but everyone wanted to.
There were some who coveted that knowledge too much, thought Eric as he sat on that endless eternal watermountain and waited.
Jarvin Tazakles. Rich, powerful, handsome, what is it you want? He lifted the onyx chesspiece, a king, and placed it on the holographic board he's had built.
Covenant. Another piece of the puzzle in play, aren't you? I could have you killed...but more satisfying to play you out, isn't it? And besides, I have other enemies arraying against me. I have SIRECOM, and the old man to deal with...I wonder if I can swing over his Black Knight? And of course, there's my little Fisher to destroy, my opposite number, Daniel. I've sensed you. My brother of the mind, who are you inside?
Tazakles thought, and the psi-aligned machinery activated a display which replayed the Deathbringer/Eric fight. "And so, this reporter has never seen anything like this. I can only say that the new Omega who appeared here hit the menacing Deathbringer like...like a Tempest."
Excellent, Tazakles chuckled. They've given you a name. Time for me to give you something to hate.
He crushed the king without closing his fingers.
"My fault." It was the first thing he'd said in a week.
"All my fault, my fault my fault my fault my FAULT MY FAULT.." It pounded in his ears, in his head, in his blood. Finally he couldn't take it anymore.
"RRRRRRRRRRRAAAAIGHRRRRRRRRR!!!" He slammed his fist into the stone under him. Again. Again. He pounded his fist into the rock for everytime he felt the words scarring at the inside of his head. "LEAVE ME ALONE! F@#K YOU, I'M SORRY, LEAVE ME THE F@#K ALONE!" Eric stuck the rock again.
Brazil. The State Geological Observatory. The Earthquake wing, to be exact.
"According to this...there's a 7.5 hitting dead center in Antarctica."
"But..where's the fault that could do this?"
"Do YOU want to tell the ground that this doesn't make sense?"
"Good. Shut up and enter the data...well, now it's a 7.6."
"I'm glad that it's happening there, not anywhere inhabited."
"Pulgirez, are you as stupid as you sound?"
"Antarctica, contrary to your Overman comics, has more than a 'Keep of Aloofness' on it. There are antartic life forms...and several nations have bases there. This is fairly centalized, though...they should be safe. Hmmm...wow, that was a big spike, wasn't it?"
"I think...yup, that was an 8.2, or bigger."
"Impressive." They went back to drinking their coffee.
Finally, either the voices tired or Eric did...he wasn't sure which. He wasn't in pain, but thinking was hard. It was like something he'd almost forgotten to do. Dazed, he looked around him. Mount Tairen, possibly the fifth largest in the world, named after the woman who'd discovered it...was rubble around him. He was in a crater left over when he'd driven himself...and it...into the ground it had been formed from. Well, I guess I showed YOU, huh?
Eric wondered if Angela Tairen would be upset at him, and then the ridiculousness of the whole situation slammed into his subconscious, and he began to laugh. He didn't notice the tears freezing onto his face as he did so. After ten minutes, he stopped, wiped aimlessly at his face, and took to the air. Soon, he was outside the protective shield of the Earth's atmosphere.
In space, everything is clearer, even if you have to get through a layer of trash and particles that the astronauts left behind. He arced out and within a minute was spinning around the moon, looking with his unaided eye at the side turned away from the planet it orbited. Beautiful, if smeared and battered by debris from space. It really is like a shield, isn't it? Could life on Earth have existed without it?
Who cares? It's pretty. With that, Eric turned himself and went back to the planet he wasn't ready to leave yet...the planet he was afraid he could never leave.
The game was over. Danny's team lost to Warren's seventeen to ten, and nobody cared all that much. Now they were back inside the bunker that they built in Chicago, a cohesive whole again, even if Danny'd had to tweak a few of their minds. He felt a little dirty about it, but he had an enemy to destroy. Honor has to be compromised, doesn't it? For the good of the collective. Yes, that's the truth, keep thinking that.
Because if you don't, you'll go nuts.
"Hey, fearless leader, Good game."
"Thanks, Warren." Would you think that if you knew I was playing with your skill? I wish Mirry wasn't visiting the doctor who trained her...I need someone to talk to. To REALLY talk to, without the clumsy mouth to get in the way.
"Jimmy says he'll have the transmat done this week, although when I ask him how it works he gets evasive."
"Warren, I told you...he doesn't KNOW. That's his Omega, remember? How do you get things that you once touched to jump to you?"
"I call 'em."
"But they aren't alive...how do they answer?"
Warren looked askance. Then his face cleared. "No way are you getting me with that one again. That's the thing you read in that Bug Robertson book, right?"
"Not exactly, but yes. The Centipede's dilemma. If you think about how you do it, and can't figure it out, you might lose the power...self confidence and all that. Doesn't work on most psi's...seems to work on YOU, though." They both smiled.
"Hey, mon, aren't you watchin' the news?" Jimmy walked in. He was covered in sweat, had his hair tied back and bags under his eyes, carrying a helmet from the suit of armor he had worn in his solo days.
"Your favorite guy is on." Using his ability over electrical machines, Jimmy turned the set built into the monitoring system on.
"And so, we here at DYNAMAX are responding to the possible dangers, both to themselves and others, that some of these Omega's..." The monitoring room fell silent as the smiling face of Jarvin Tazakles appeared. Danny felt his blood run cold. "...pose. As you now, most of them are young adults or pre-adults, and of course lack the maturity needed to get immediate control of their powers."
Warren called a large plasma pulse cannon out of the Armory, one of the more powerful weapons Jimmy had designed for the Colony, but before he could shoot the screen Danny pushed the barrel up.
"I want to hear this."
Tazakles was gesturing to a large red iron door, showy bastard that he was. "Behind this door is a helping hand from DYNAMAX, in order to enable these poor souls to adjust. Behind this door is what I've taken, in my inimitable way," Everybody at the press conference laughed at the self-deprecating way Tazakles refered to his reputation as the Donald Trump of biogenetics. Everybody in the Colony monitor room did not. "to calling our Hazardous Activity: Various Omega Cadre, or HAVOC."
"A f#@king acronym. He thinks this is a comic book." Warren had gone white, his hand trembling around the handle of the rifle.
"No, that's the problem." Danny felt a hammer slamming into his head. "He want THEM to think this is a comic book. He's got that Mr. Handsome Happy rep...they love him."
"Mebbe it's time we offed the bastard." Jimmy had dropped the featureless helmet over his face. "HUD system on line. I've almost got this thing ready."
"Quiet...That door is opening."
And so it did. On the big screen of the monitor, it almost seemed that the three of them were at the press conference. "First off is John Amberdigris, former detective in the Kansas City police dept. and now, the leader of our HAVOC squad. John?"
A tall man, blond, almost movie handsome, walked out in a red jumpsuit with the DYNAMAX helix on the arm. "Plastic Surgery?"
"You know it, Warren."
"John's team...." Tazakles went on, but Danny couldn't listen anymore. "Turn it off...the sight of that thing is making me wanna puke."
"Your wish is my command." Warren dropped the gun into firing position and sent the surge of plasma into the screen. It folded up on itself.
"Should I hack into Tazakles' system, find out about them?"
"Good idea, Jimmy. Find out if they are Omegas or mechanicals or whatever." Danny sat down in the central chair as Jimmy repaired the screen, causing the broken glass and ruptured circuits to flow as if they were alive. "And..."
"You might want to get that armor fixed sooner than later. It's coming on."
"You know it." Warren and Jimmy left Danny alone, to face the screams of the holocaust he saw whenever he closed his eyes.
Newfoundland. La Ainge Aix Meadows. The place where modern archaeology believes the first Europeans may have set foot on the North American continent.
Eldin and Sarah Vincent, a geology grad student and his archeologist wife, are here on a related matter. They seek to uncover caves that they believe exist here, caves that swallowed up a larger Viking settlement. And so they dig.
"Honey, can you hand me the wider spade? There might be an artifact in this soft earth."
"If this doesn't pan out, we'll have to start blasting."
"Do you think we can get permission?"
"I don't think it matters if they give us permission or not."
Beneath their feet, while they discuss the possible rewards for their discovery, there IS a large cavern. No viking ever saw it, however. In it are machines that have lain here for long before humanity ever reached the North American continent, machines that have not been active in all that time.
"Sure, I really think we have something here. The MRI scan was inconclusive, but when we sent the shockwave down, the return definitely suggests a cavern, with metal artifacts. Maybe a whole armory of Scandanavian steel weapons, even."
A tachyon pulse reaches the Earth. There is nothing unusual about that, per se. Tachyons reach Earth all the time. But this pulse hits the right frequency, and penetrates the stone in Newfoundland...and in nine other places.
"I can't wait to get down there, Eldin. Think of what proof like that could mean to our careers!"
Lights, older than the existence of Homo Sapiens itself, lights that have been off all that time click on. Machinery that hasn't functioned begins to. A self-repair program runs.
"This could be the greatest thing we ever do."
The machines wait for them.
Eric hit the atmosphere in a wide arc so as not to cause a fireball. The friction still ate away at his jacket, but the rest of him weathered it fine. The heat was inconsequential.
On his way over the North Pole, he looked down at the vast white and admired the glare. Then he began decent, taking care to drop in speed and altitude so as to vanish from NORAD radar. The last time he'd done this they'd gotten antsy and scrambled jets..which he'd evaded easily enough,but why worry about it if you don't have to?
Chicago. Now he was traveling low over Lake Michigan at a few hundred miles per hour...too low and too slow to be detected. Actually, he could be SEEN easily enough...but he wasn't worried about that.
Finally he landed on top of the Sears tower. He looked down at the city and realized he was spent. The space-flight takes a lot out...he felt like he could actually sleep.
Then a lightning bolt hit him. And hit him again. And again. Ordinarily he'd laugh it off...but not now. His TK shield nearly failed altogether, and he collapsed.
"Well, you aren't as tough as the boss said." Eric looked up. Surrounding him were five people wearing red jumpsuits...they looked stupid, he thought...and they looked ready for a fight. A man with yellow hair was nearest to him, his right arm gone...in it's place was a lighting bolt that stayed in one place. "Let me introduce you to the group."
"Oh, good, I love socializing."
"Shut up. This is Tyrus...he likes to kill your terrorist kind." A thin man with copper skin was standing with his arms crossed. Eric realized that his Mind Shield was still up...and this guy was trying like hell to get through it. Probably why they'd zapped him. The rest of the group were women. Nice ratio.
"Not that this wouldn't be fun, but I think I'll be going now."
"I doubt it...Mariska?" They all dropped masks over their faces. Eric wondered if these people watched too many episodes of MISSION:Impossible when they were growing up.
"I'm on it." Suddenly the blonder of the two blondes (Why are these people so good looking? Couldn't they find any realistc looking Omegas?) raised her hands and flooded the air arond Eric with some kind of gas...or, to be more accurate, MADE the air around him so. Eric stood up, his reserves coming back.
"But...John, that's a Dioxin/Zyklon compound! He should be dead!"
"Oops...Oh well, I guess I'm not. Your turn." He looked at her, and the air was swept away from her in a blast that took her off her feet. He kept the air away, sealing her in a box. She began to pound away as she ran out of air. "Gee, look at that..she's a mime, too. Very talented."
"Mariska! Turn on your air tank! Tyrus, KILL HIM!" Tyrus made a glowing ax appear and swung it at Eric's head. Eric caught it with his left hand and sent mental feeback down it. Tyrus jerked around like a mackrel on a line, but the box around the woman dropped. She sucked in air through the black facemask she wore.
"Two down...three to go."
"Not quite."The other blond furrowed her brow, and Eric felt a strange sensation playing along his skin...then he saw the blond disappear in a blaze of light, and an electrical field hit him. Hard. It felt like a thousand bolts of lightning a second.
"ZZZZLIKE JOSEPHA'S POWERZZZZSHE AMPLIFIES OMEGASZZZZ"
They fell off of the building. Whoever sparky is, he isn't going to be hurt by a little fall...and neither am I. Let's see what this does.
Eric pointed himself and flew, the electricity ripping into his shield. What had been agony had receeded into a dull throbbing, and was getting weaker...distance from the woman? Adapting? Who knows, and who cares? Eric didn't. He arced up so that his attacker wouldn't leave.
"ZZZZSURRENDER OR DIEZZZZZ"
"Bite me." WHOOOM! In a second, they slammed into the Lake.
"YYYYYYYYARTZZ" The thing of electricity was gone. Eric realized, however, that he'd made a mistake as the short got him, too. He felt every nerve ending in his body seemingly catch on fire at once...and then it got worse. "MOTHERF@#KER!"
Finally, after a few seconds, he got it together and left. He didn't need a fight just now, and didn't even know WHY those guys were after him...besides, he wasn't at his best. And, if truth be known...he wasn't very good at fighting. Scrambling into the air, he headed for the hidden access tunnel Danny'd put in for him.
Danny was still sitting at the console when Eric dragged himself into the monitor room, smelling of the Lake, feeling sick and hungry. Funny..when was the last time I ate? And why aren't I sleepy yet?
"Danny...I've had one Bitch-all day."
"So have we all. Tazakles debuted a new team of traitors.."
"Are any of them blonde guys who turn into lightning bolts?"
Danny looked up from the report Jimmy had cracked out for him. "Yeah...the leader. Names John Amberdigris...used to be a Kansas City cop, went dirty. You know him?"
"Introduced himself and his goon squad to me on top of the Sears Tower today. Nearly fried me, too. He had some woman who boosted him way up..."
"That's be Josepha Sheldon."
"...like I care? Anyway, I took him into the lake, which seemed to hurt him...but it didn't do me much good, either. I feel like puking, but I'm hungry too."
"Try living it." Eric dropped into a chair, too wasted to hate himself anymore. "So what are we going to do about this?"
"I don't know yet."
What they do about this.
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