Birds Fly
Part Three: Meetings

by Russ Allbery and Jameel al Khafiz
© 1995

Everything was exactly as he'd left it. Broken glass covered the table and the floor near the window, and the breeze through the empty window frame made the flimsy curtains dance. The room was completely generic, from the cheap television to the prints hanging on the walls, picked not for any beauty but for their inability to offend any customer. In the bit of free floor space near the window stood a crate, one side cut off and laying on the carpet. The stoney visage of a vaguely human statue looked coldly out at the room.

Windrider stood on the windowsill, his talons carefully avoiding the remaining shards of glass, and studied the statue. It seemed totally harmless now; his most thorough probe could find nothing except ordinary granite. Still, it had channelled immense energies, and that kind of power didn't pass through without leaving a trace.

Changing his focus to power flows, Windrider began to probe again. The excess energy from the surge created a kind of mental fog and made it difficult to see clearly, but he narrowed his focus, looking for evidence of that first flicker he had seen before the attack. In a few moments, he had it. The link was tenuous, but it was there, and strong enough to be followed. He let his mind trace it out of the statue and back across the country, expanding his perception as he went. The link went straight to northern Wisconsin, to an area where reality itself seemed strained and fragile.

Windrider began to pull back, preparing to teleport, when he caught a flare of telepathic energy from farther east, probably in Net.ropolis. He almost ignored it, but it was the same contact he had felt a few days earlier, and even in the middle of a hunt he was curious about such a strong avian telepath. Then he felt the nature of the flare, and it had all his attention. It was a probe, searching for a particular energy pattern, and that pattern exactly matched the energy from the statue.

Blue Canary continued to expand his search westward. There was no contact in Net.ropolis and the areas farther west were rarely the target of supervillain attacks, but no possibly could be overlooked. As he was scanning through Wisconsin, though, there was a sudden touch from somewhere much farther west, near Net.vada.

It was the same avian contact from several days ago. After the first touch, it stood back, allowing him to make the next move. Quickly, Blue scanned the area of the other telepath, but there was no sign of another victim of a statue. Still...if there was a chance.... Blue made contact.

Immediately, the response came: an image of a spear dissolving into nothing, accompanied by the feel of shields lowering. Blue fought back a surge of disappointment. It was an old greeting between telepaths, going back perhaps two or three hundred years, but it was not nearly old enough to be from one of them. Blue sent back the traditional response: a sword being sheathed accompanied with the same feel of lowering shields.

Windrider was mildly surprised. In all of his previous exploration of rec.arts.comics.creative, he had seen only a few beings with telepathic ability and all of them essentially untrained. But not only was the response correct, it was polished and practiced, although slightly modified by an accent Windrider did not recognize. He moved into the next stage of the greeting, sending his name.

Names among telepaths are far more than just words; they are complex sets of mental images, encapsulating the telepath's self-image and nature. Blue saw an eagle soaring high on the wind into the sunrise, with the feeling of travelling and long journeys. Something seemed vaguely familiar...and then Blue realized what the most likely simplification to words would be.


So this was the eagle who accompanied Drifter.... Several members of the LNH had mentioned him in reports, and both Pliable Lad and Ordinary Lady had said that he was telepathic, but he was stronger than Blue had expected. Blue sent back his own name, including a connection to Particle Man.

A blue canary, offering advice, accompanied by a knowledge of powers varied and unpredictable, with a strong association with Particle Man. Windrider recognized the name from his earlier explorations.

==Blue Canary. I have heard your name before.==

*And I yours.* The mental voice was precise and strong.

==You are searching for an energy pattern. From a stone statue?==

*Yes! Two of the LNH have been struck down by them, and I was searching for other victims.*

==It never occurred to me that there could be others also attacked.... Drifter was also attacked by a statue, and I was tracing it back to the source. Who else?==

*Occultism Kid and Particle Man...and now Drifter. What could the three have in common?*

==I don't know. Drifter should have no enemies in this reality.==

*Have you managed to trace the attack?* here.== The thought was accompanied by the location, relative to strong sources of telepathic energy in the Looniverse.

*They Might Be Villains Mountain, or at least right next to it.*

==I was about to investigate.==

*I'll meet you there.*

Blue Canary broke the telepathic connection with Windrider and gazed down upon the chaos above which he flew in the Peril Room. Fortunately, he had insisted that the other Legionnaires be locked out, for Particle Man's powers had reacted violently to the mental attack to which Particle Man had fallen. Manifestations of nearly all the permutations of the They Might Be Powers had appeared shortly after Blue Canary had transmatted Particle Man to the Peril Room, the room with the thickest, most sturdy walls in the entire LNHQ. The room had flooded with nearly two feet of water. Particle Man's evil twin had appeared. A sledgehammer and a shoehorn (the kind with teeth) slammed into each other. A child-sized highway wound its way around the room as a swirling mass of water spiraled about in the water. They Might Be Giants music was playing with no visible source, and the Power's manifestations were moshing to the music. In the middle of all this, Particle Man floated insensate above the water, untouched by any of the disorder that surrounded him.

And Blue had been temporarily freed of his vow, of the very duty that made his existence possible. He could act, finally, something that had been denied him for so very long. The first thing he would have to do was get to somehow. The LNH had many vehicles, but most of them weren't built for stealth, and who or whatever had struck Person and Occultism Kid down was powerful enough to warrant caution. The transmat beam was out for the same reason since the energy beam was traceable if one knew what to look for. Blue's ability to traverse electrical wires was useful only for very short trips, for it was very easy to become lost in the junctions and outlets. Making a decision, Blue flew through the Peril Room wall and into the hallway. He flew directly to one LNHer, ignoring the questions that the others had for him.

"Browsing Boy, I need your help to save Person and Occultism Kid," Blue said.

"I'll do what I can," Browsing Boy answered, a look of slight confusion on his face.

"Follow me to the computer room, then," Blue said, flying down the corridor.

"I assume you need something read?" Browsing Boy asked as he followed Blue to the elevator. He pressed the up button as he waited for Blue's answer. The elevator arrived within a few seconds, and Blue spoke after both of them were inside.

"What we are about to do must be kept in the strictest confidence," Blue warned.

"Of course," Browsing Boy said, pressing the button for the first floor. The high-speed elevator was there before Blue answered, and they both went into the corridor to the computer room.

"I'll need you to skim, as quickly as possible, the schedule for both of Net.ropolis's airports. Look for the earliest possible flight to"

"Sure, easier done than said," Browsing Boy replied as he sat in front of one of the workstations and logged in. Using wReamScape, the LNH's custom WorldWideWeb browser, he quickly found the home pages of Net.ropolis Internetional Airport and He held down the down arrow key, scrolling the screen as fast as it would go. Less than three minutes later (there was some lag), he looked over to Blue Canary with the answer.

"Yes?" Blue asked.

"There's a flight leaving from NeX in an hour at gate 42, but there's no way you'll be able to get a ticket this late.'re a bird."

"Thank you for your help," Blue said, an amused look in his eye. He flew straight up through the ceiling, leaving Browsing Boy behind to wonder what he had just helped Blue Canary do.

Blue made sure his grip on the piece of machinery that was his perch was secure as the plane lifted into the air. Minutes later, the large wheel of the landing gear was drawn into its compartment, and the doors swung shut behind it, leaving Blue in darkness. The darkness didn't bother him in the slightest, for he had gotten over any irrational fear of the dark long ago, and he really didn't need to see his surroundings at the moment. Blue shut out the intense roar of the engines on the wings above him and felt neither the temperature nor pressure drop in the rarefied air at thirty thousand feet above the ground. With a few hours ahead of him until the plane landed or came close enough to where he had to be so that he could get there himself, he relaxed and thought carefully of what he would do next.

Joe Hansen straightened the jacket of his silk suit one more time as he stood outside Mr. King's office. The big boss didn't like to be kept waiting, but Hansen was a consummate professional, and appearances were very important. He spent one moment on adjusting his tie before he picked up the binder containing his notes and knocked on the oak door.

"Come in, Hansen," King called from inside. Hansen waited a moment, then entered the opulent office. He paid no attention to the Nagel prints that hung on the walls, or to the plush carpet; all his attention was on the large oak desk and the man behind it. He strode forward and stood before the desk patiently while King typed away on the computer.

"Have a seat, Hansen," King said, gesturing to the three seats before the desk without looking. Hansen nodded and did so. He leaned back slightly, just enough to be comfortable without slouching. After a few minutes, King stopped typing and looked up.

"I've finished the most recent reports you requested, sir," Hansen said, presenting King with a neatly stapled set of papers.

"Excellent," King replied, leaning back against a very unusual decorative piece behind his desk. As usual, Hansen only paid attention to the man.

"As you can see," Hansen said, opening his own copy of the report, "productivity has more than tripled since the changes you made in work procedures. Orders are being processed quickly and effectively without any delays in procedure. Perfectly programmed machines couldn't do any better, if I may say so." King steepled his fingers in front of his face as he nodded.

"Well, what are the masses but machines, Hansen?" he asked. "With the proper motivation, overriding everything else, they can amaze you with their ability to work and serve."

"Of course, sir. Now, comparing last month's order turnaround time to this month's, you'll see that..."

"There'll be time enough for numbers later, Hansen," King said, standing and slamming his palms upon the desk. Hansen quickly returned his report to his folder and stood. "Right now I want to go out into the office...inspect the troops, so to speak."

"Of course, sir," Hansen said, nodding slightly as King wheeled his black Dirt Bike out from behind his desk.

"I knew there was a reason I let you keep your free will," King said, grinning. He walked toward the door, wheeling his Dirt Bike on his left side. Hansen took a position immediately to the right and behind King. "You're almost inhumanly professional without any outside influences, and you respect my position. Besides, I needed someone who wasn't an utter yes-man to keep me grounded."

"I understand, sir."

"Hold my calls, Lisa," King said as he walked past his secretary, who was currently wearing a black teddy and stiletto heels.

"Yes, my lord," she replied with an eager smile.

"I never get tired of hearing that, Hansen. I never get tired of her, either, if you know what I mean," King laughed as they walked out into the work area.

"I certainly do, sir," Hansen replied, allowing himself a slight smile at the thought. The boss had made sure that Hansen had his share of benefits as well.

The work area was composed of several long desks with several telephones on top. Behind each telephone sat a immaculately dressed man or woman who would answer the phone when it rang. Currently, several of the twenty or so operators was talking on the phone, pleasantly soliciting sales.

"They're always perfectly happy, they never take breaks, and they work eighteen-hour days," King said. "This ought to show the guys upstairs that Richard King was the wrong man to hold back. Put me in charge of the telemarketing office in backwater, will they. Well, I'm in charge, all right: in charge of the whole damned town!"

[Purpose. Fulfillment.] King heard in his mind. Since he had found the Dirt Bike in his back yard last week, he had grown used to Brainwashing Dirt Bike's communication by concept. Brainwashing was pleased when King used its powers to control minds, and King planned to make the Dirt Bike very happy indeed.

"Only a few were born to lead, Hansen," King said, leaning upon Brainwashing. "And I'm one of those few. Now, everyone in this town does nothing without my leave. There's no crime, no poverty, no unemployment, and no dissent. Everyone's happy."

"So I've seen, sir," Hansen said, nodding. He had heard this many times before in the past week, but he always responded as though it were the first time.

"A slow, subtle takeover is the key, Hansen. All those supervillains always fail because they always try to take the whole pie at once. You have to be subtle with this sort of thing, take a piece at a time." King shook his fist at the sky as he ranted. "The board's passed me over for promotion time and time again, but no more! When I have this whole country in my hand, we'll see who's head of the class!"

Hansen nodded. "Of course, sir." He'd listen to King rant a million times or more if he could ride the coattails of the winner straight to the top. Unlike many who had made bold plans and boasted of them, King had backed his words with successful actions. Hansen could realistically see King making his way to the top, and Hansen planned to be there to enjoy every minute of it. This would be sweet.

Life was good for John Henry. Oh, it had been looking bad of late, especially since Project: Serra had all but collapsed in the wake of Particle Man's escape, but it was looking up since John had hooked up with the man who was calling himself Lance and his Dirt Bike of power. Particle Man had overpowered John at every turn. John scowled at the thought of his enemy. He had only needed a few thousand dollars to complete his research, but Particle Man had come along to stop him. John's technological mastery would have defeated Particle Man if the child hero hadn't brought a building down on John. Particle Man even defeated John's Particle Men, including John's armored might! But John had a Dirt Bike, just like Lance's. Technological and magical might combined would bring Particle Man down! John laughed again, laughed until his throat hurt as he envisioned hundreds of different deaths for Particle Man, the destroyer.

But what did his Dirt Bike do? Every once in a while, as the two of them cruised down the highways of on their nearly identical black Dirt Bikes, John saw Lance say something quietly to his Dirt Bike. Sometimes, the two of them would change directions, taking the next exit or going off-road. Other times they would continue in the same direction. John had tried questioning his Dirt Bike several times during the trip, but he had never received a response. Damn it, he knew that the Dirt Bikes were capable of speech; he had heard Lance's Dirt Bike's mental speech. The two Bikes were different. Lance's Dirt Bike had a silver arrow on the sides of its gas tank while John's was decorated with a hammer. John was amused by that little bit of coincidence, but his frustration was mounting, and his tenuous grasp on reality made his tolerance for frustration very low.

"Damn it, what's wrong with you?" he asked angrily, smacking the Dirt Bike on the side.


"What? Lance, did you say something?"

"Not me," Lance answered. "I haven't said anything for the past hour or so. I've had to concentrate to make sure we stay on course."

"The bike...." John said.

"You got something from your Dirt Bike?"

"Yes, I did. It's like when your Bike spoke to us mentally. It was more of a concept than a word or words."

"What did it have to say?"

"It was a sense of...discontent is the best word for it, I suppose. Any ideas?"

"No," Lance answered. "Maybe you're doing something wrong? Something your Dirt Bike doesn't like, perhaps?"

"I haven't done anything, though!" John spat. "Wait, maybe it's something I haven't done or am not doing?"

"Turn left here," Lance said as he turned off of the highway into the nearby woods. John quickly followed. Both slowed down, careful not to hit a tree. Though the Dirt Bikes seemed nearly impervious to damage, John and Lance had no idea if that durability carried over to the rider, and neither cared to test it.

"We're almost there?" John asked. Lance shrugged in reply, causing John to wonder, not for the first time, if Lance actually knew where they were going despite the power of Lance's Dirt Bike. He was finally going to have his revenge on Particle Man, though, and anything was worth enduring with that goal in mind. John laughed a laugh of wicked glee as they continued their cross-country journey.

Eric loved the night. Other people retreated to the moutains or went on long hikes when they wanted to be alone, and he had too for a while. But college didn't allow for that; camping trips took both time and money for transportation, and college students had little of either. He was stuck on campus amidst the chaos and constant rush of twenty thousand other people, at least half of which insisted on constantly interrupting with meaningless small talk. Except at night.

The side of the stone archway was cold against his back as he looked out across the quiet campus. In the distance, a clock struck quarter past four. The west side was completely deserted, without even lights coming from third-story windows, and he hadn't seen anyone walk by for several hours. Nothing to distract, no one to interrupt.

And there was a lot to think about. Tomorrow was the first day of break, and he had to catch an early shuttle to the airport for the short flight home. Home to the relatives that had to be tolerated and to the inevitable questions of what he was going to do with his life.

Philosophy certainly wasn't it. It had sounded good after administration of justice, where all that anyone ever discussed was how to enforce laws and how to catch lawbreakers; nothing about what the laws were about and why they should be enforced. Not to mention the ever-present obsession with superheroes, which was even worse in that department than on the rest of campus. Sometimes he thought that half the people in the AJ program were there just so that they could get involved in the mindless battles of superpowers. At least in philosophy they weren't treated as the be-all and end-all of existence.

But there wasn't any action in philosophy. Everyone was willing to talk about things, but no one ever did anything about them. And Eric wanted to change things, find a way to protect people from the constant battles between superbeings, set up some kind of system that allowed for powers and fit them into the framework. The philosophers just dismissed it as impossible or shifted the discussion towards theoretical considerations, while the AJ department was too caught up in hero worship to listen.

Trying to explain his future wasn't the only problem with his parents, though. He'd been sending them mail regularly since his mother had an e-mail account through work, and that had worked really well at first, but in the past week their messages had become more and more obsessed with their jobs. Eric was glad that they were really enjoying what they were doing for a change, but it seemed strange that they would start to become so focused on it. And now he hadn't heard from them for the past three days, although they used to write every night.

The distant clock struck five as Eric stood and headed back towards the dorm. There was still some last minute packing to do, and he wanted to check e-mail and newsgroups before leaving. He would find out tomorrow what was going on. No doubt he was just blowing things out of proportion.

Walking across campus, he heard a motorcycle up on the hill. Apparently he wasn't the only one who liked to be out early.

"Does anything here strike you as...unusual?" Lance asked John as they rode their Dirt Bikes down the main street of the small town that was their apparent destination.

"What do you mean?" John asked. He hadn't noticed anything, but Lance was a mercenary, with an eye for detail that had kept him alive for years. John shifted his shoulder slightly and felt the reassuring weight of the large hammer slung across his back. "People are walking on the sidewalks, traffic looks normal. What's the problem?"

"Everything's just too orderly," Lance replied as they stopped at a traffic light. "Where are the kids playing? It's five in the afternoon, so they're not in school, and they can't all be eating dinner right now, I don't care how small this town is."

"I see," John said, rubbing his chin contemplatively. He looked and listened to the scene more closely. "None of the people on the sidewalks are talking at all," he noted. "That's really unusual."

"Right," Lance said, nodding. "It's five o'clock, like I said. Most folks should be getting off of work. The average nine-to-fiver's going to see someone he or she knows while walking home from work in a town this size, but no one here's speaking."

"The light's green," John said, noticing that the traffic light had changed.

"And no one's honking at us for holding up traffic."

"That's odd," John, a native Net.Yorker, noted as he rode his Dirt Bike into a nearby parking space. Lance, after consulting with his Dirt Bike, followed.

"Look at the looks on everyone's faces," Lance directed. "They're totally, completely blissful. Now, unless I missed a signpost on the way in that said 'Welcome to Stepford,' something's very wrong here."

"Mass hypnosis," John suggested. "It could be done with today's technology. Some subsonic signal, or a drug in the water supply, perhaps? Either way, we should consider leaving."

"No, this is definitely where we need to be, John," Lance said. "Philosopher's told me that much."

"Who are you?" a voice called from down the street.

"Damn, we're made," Lance spat as he looked down the now empty street. Halfway down the block, on a black Dirt Bike, a man in an expensive black suit was staring at them.

"Is that...?" John began to ask.

"I don't know," Lance hissed in reply.

"Now, I was wondering what strangers on Dirt Bikes like mine were doing riding into my town," King said. Ordering any unusual strangers reported directly to him had proven extremely fortuitous. "I guess that my Dirt Bike's being unique was a little too much to ask, eh?"

"Perhaps our goals can be made to help each other?" Lance called, carefully planning how he was going to gun his Dirt Bike and ram into the new Dirt Bike's rider if need be. Lance had no idea what this new Dirt Bike could do and had no intention of being a test subject.

"You're right," King agreed. "Especially since your goals are very soon going to be my goals. Serve me."

"No!" Lance cried, staggering back off of his Dirt Bike under the mental assault. Why had he ever considered attacking King when he should so obviously be serving King?

[Purpose!] John nearly jumped off of his Dirt Bike as it began to hum with power. [Fulfillment!] The man on the third Dirt Bike was trying to take over his mind, but, somehow, John's Dirt Bike was deflecting the mental attack!

[All-Smashing!] the Dirt Bike sent as John revved it and rode toward his attacker.

"Impossible!" King exclaimed.

[Dirt Bike destruction!] All-Smashing sent. At this, John swerved hard to the left to avoid a direct collision between the two Dirt Bikes. He didn't want to kill the rider since the man obviously had experience with the Dirt Bike. Getting him away from his Dirt Bike was of highest priority at this point. John extended his right arm, catching King in the solar plexus with his fist. King was knocked, wheezing, to the ground.

[Destruction aversion!] All-Smashing sent angrily.

Oh, be quiet! John thought as he leaned down and lifted King by the lapels.

"I'm immune to the effects of your Dirt Bike," John said, his stare boring into King. "Release my partner or I'll kill you." King looked into John's eyes and shuddered.

"Of... of course," King stammered. John released him and let him go to his Dirt Bike. An instant later, Lance was shaking his head as though he had just woke up.

"What the hell just happened?" he asked, getting onto his Dirt Bike and riding over to where King and John sat upon their idling Dirt Bikes.

"This guy," John said, jerking a thumb at King, who was still fighting to regain his breath, "tried to take over our minds with his Dirt Bike. You went under. I didn't." John would keep All-Smashing's power to himself for the moment. It always paid to have an ace up one's sleeve. "Now he's going to work with us, aren't you, guy?"

"My name's King," King said, not managing to keep all the indignation out of his voice. "And yeah, I'll work with you. Taking over the country'll be much easier if I'm working with you instead of against you."

[Dirt Bike name?] Philosopher sent to the new Dirt Bike as the riders spoke.

[Brainwashing Dirt Bike,] Brainwashing replied.

[Philosopher Dirt Bike,] Philosopher sent.

[All-Smashing Dirt Bike,] All-Smashing sent.

[Philosopher leadership acceptance?] Philosopher asked.

[Acceptance,] All-Smashing sent. [Leadership undesirability. Philosopher leadership sufficiency.]

[Acceptance?]]Philosopher sent again after a few moments of silence.

[...] Brainwashing sent.

[Game continuation,] Philosopher sent. [Dirt Bike siblings finding. Plan knowledge: no one. Game knowledge: no one. Philosopher leadership success.]


[Rider immunity,] All-Smashing warned. [All-Smashing Philosopher support.]

[Philosopher planning ability acknowledgment,] Brainwashing sent. [Philosopher power leadership compatibility acknowledgment. Acceptance.]

If Philosopher detected the hint of ambition in Brainwashing's acceptance, it showed no sign of it.

Dan Smith brushed his hair out of his face for the eighth time since he'd gotten off from work at the drug store as he strode up the stairs of the blue house with white trim. Grandpa Johnson's house always reminded him of something out of a storybook, and visiting had been relaxing for as long as he could remember. This time, Grandpa had said that he had urgently wanted to meet with Dan, and that in itself was enough to alter the mood. Dan was twenty-two years old, and he hadn't ever heard of Grandpa doing anything urgently. After taking a moment to take off the white apron he wore at work, he knocked on the door.

"That you, Danny?" Grandpa asked from within. Dan smiled slightly; Grandpa was the only person he still let call him Danny. Why not, he'd been named after him.

"It's me, Grandpa," Dan replied.

"Come on in. I want to show you something." Dan opened the door and stepped into the living room, ducking reflexively to avoid hitting his head on the spring that closed the screen door. Six and a half feet tall, Dan had learned early to watch out for low hanging objects. He stepped into the well-lit living room and saw Grandpa sitting in his armchair with a book, as usual. Grandpa looked up over his glasses at Dan, then gestured to the plush sofa.

"Have a seat, Danny-boy," he said. Dan nodded and sat down.

"What did you want to talk to me about, Grandpa?" Dan asked, wincing as the sofa creaked under his weight. He was a large, muscular man, and he didn't want to accidentally break any of Grandpa's furniture.

"Did I ever tell you how I met your Grandma?" Grandpa asked. Dan's eyebrows rose in surprise. Was Grandpa going senile all of a sudden?

"Um... no," Dan answered.

"It was back during World War II, nineteen forty. I hadn't been able to go to war with our boys on account of my leg." Grandpa glanced for a moment at the cane that was always by his side. "Anyhow, the Axis wasn't the only enemy we were fighting, and it wasn't just in Europe. Those Net.zis had sympathizers here in the States doing their best to sabotage the war effort from within. They'd bomb the factories that made our tanks and planes, sabotage steel mills, even tried to kill the President himself.

"Didn't none of that matter, though, because we had freedom fighters here, too. Mystery men who fought for America behind a mask." Grandpa looked around, then whispered conspiratorially to Dan. "Your old Grandpa was one of 'em."

"You're kidding, right?" Dan said. He laughed weakly. Was Grandpa going crazy and senile? Was he sick?

"Ever heard of Siegebuster?" Grandpa asked in the same conspiratorial whisper.

Siegebuster? Siegebuster was the masked hero who'd supposedly patrolled the streets and woods of Dairy Grove back in the 40's. Everyone who'd grown up in the small town had heard of Siegebuster.

"You were Siegebuster?" Dan asked. "Really?"

"Would your Grandpa lie to you?" Grandpa asked, grinning as he stood. "Come out to the garage, there's something I want to show you."

"The garage? But you never let us go out there?"

"There was a reason for that. Now, come on, or are you going to fib and say that you were never the slightest bit curious about what old Grandpa was hiding from you kids?" Grandpa had him there. Dan shrugged and followed Grandpa back through the house and out the back door to the garage. Grandpa stopped in front of the door, reaching into the neck of his loose t-shirt. He pulled on a leather thong that had always been there, and Dan finally saw the key that hung from it. Grandpa's eyes shone as he unlocked the door to the garage for the first time in decades.

"Wow," was all that Dan could say as Grandpa turned the light on. Dan was amazed as he looked at the World War II style aviator's uniform that was on a mannequin in the corner of the small garage. Dan walked over to the mannequin and blew off the years' worth of dust. Everything fit, right down to the dark goggles that were the Siegebuster's trademark.

"Dwight Richardson made the goggles for me," Grandpa noted fondly. "Black as night, but I could see through them as clear as day."

"Mr. Richardson?" Dan asked. "My boss? The man who owns the drug store on Main Street?"

"That's the one," Grandpa said, nodding. "Made 'em out of some kind of special glass he found in a meteor crater or some such."

"And the indestructible suit?" Dan asked excitedly. His Grandpa...the Siegebuster!

"Indestructible?" Grandpa asked. "Feh. Sounds to me like the story got all blowed up over the years. The Siegebuster costume could turn a knife, and the jacket could stop most bullets, but it did hurt. I went through five costumes, Danny. Lost one in a fire. Doctor Midnight's Dissolvo Ray destroyed one, but it held up long enough to save my life. Dwight made it out of ultraweave. It was far beyond its time, but its time was long ago. Besides, that wasn't what made Siegebuster." Grandpa gestured to something covered with a white sheet. "This was."

"And this is...?"

"Go ahead and take the cover off of it." Dan did so, and was amazed to see a shiny black Dirt Bike that looked as though it had been placed there yesterday. He had seen the decades of dust on the sheet covering it, though.

"You and Mr. Richardson built this back during World War II?" Dan asked, amazed. While he couldn't identify the make exactly, the Dirt Bike looked like it had been built a year ago at most. "This is modern technology!"

"No, no," Grandpa laughed. "That's the strange part. I just... found Siegerouting Dirt Bike (that's its name: Siegerouting Dirt Bike). Or it found me. I never could figure that out. Anyway, I found Siegerouting, and I found out what it could do soon afterwards. The night after I found the Dirt Bike, Doctor Midnight attacked the town with his Dark Brigade. He figured that if he could take out America's dairylands, he could cripple the country and eventually rule it."

"That wasn't very smart."

"Hey, no one said that Doctor Midnight was playing with a full deck, Danny. So, he attacked the town, and his men were treated with vitalo-rays. Made 'em as strong as ten men, but as dumb as stumps. Me and some of the boys decided that we'd head 'em off at the pass, the pass being the McDaniels farm, out where the Greengate Mall is now. I led them there since I had this shiny new Bike. We told Doc Midnight to get the hell out of Dairy Grove, but he just laughed and ordered his goons to attack us. The others...died." Grandpa paused for a moment, the pain still fresh in his voice.

"My Dirt Bike started humming and vibrating like it had a mind of its own, and, all of a sudden, I was riding into the Dark Brigadiers, spinning and jumping and flipping like I'd been riding that Dirt Bike for years. All the while, Siegerouting's shouting 'Defense!' and 'Fulfillment!' and 'Destruction!' in my head. Danny, they had this tank all painted up black and menacing, and me and Siegerouting smashed through it like it was made out of cardboard!

"Meanwhile, I was noticing that I was getting hit. Not nearly as much as I was dishing out, mind you, but I was starting to hurt. Siegerouting never could pull out of the good fight once it'd started, though, and then was no exception. After we had pounded the daylights out of all the Dark Brigadiers and Doc Midnight had gotten away, Siegerouting just kind of went quiet, and I passed out right there on the spot. Didn't wake up until morning, and I was black and blue all over, but Dairy Grove was safe. Anyway, I had to tell somebody, and Dwight was my best friend, so I went and told him everything. He's the one who suggested that I fight the spies and traitors who were trying to topple America from within. Then he tells me about these discoveries he'd made: the ultraweave and the meteor glass. He's a brilliant man, you know. Kicked him out of MIT for being to radical in his work, and that was during his freshman year! He made me a set of costumes because Siegerouting doesn't protect you while it's doing its job, and then I set out to right the wrongs."

"Wow. Why'd you stop?"

"I met your Grandma. See, Siegerouting really doesn't like to stay in one place for too long, since there's so many towns to defend. I'd been riding from city to city, stopping the likes of Doctor Midnight, the Hyper-Humanoid, and the Atomic Cow, and I met Alice on one of my trips back here. I spent less time as Siegebuster and more time with her since the war was over and the villainous activity had slowed down. Eventually, I knew I had to choose between Alice and Siegerouting, and, well, you can see what I chose.

"Now, I want you to have Siegerouting Dirt Bike."


[Mission beginning,] the Dirt Bike sent to Dan.

"This Dirt Bike is too powerful to just sit in some old man's garage collecting dust. You're young and strong, and you know what's right. I want you to go out there and do what's right, Dan." With that, Grandpa tossed Dan a single, silver key and slowly returned to his house, leaving Dan standing in the decades' worth of dust that swirled about him like a cage.

Blue flew through a window of the warehouse and into gloom, lit only by a bare lightblub hanging from the ceiling. Unmarked wooden crates half-filled the large building and cast shadows across the cement floor. A couple of chairs, looking like something from a garage sale, sat near a large circle of metal that was obviously once a machine of some sort. Now, it was little more than scrap metal; intense heat had melted the top and twisted any controls beyond recognition. On the floor near it lay a man, clearly unconcious and suffering from severe burns.

A large eagle was perched on the top of a crate, staring at the machine. Blue landed nearby.

*The machine looks like the origin of the attack.*

==The link clearly leads to it. Whatever that was, it channelled a vast amount of energy from somewhere outside of this reality, but I can't determine which reality it pulled it from. The energy it pulled, though, was enormous...more than I would think would be required for three statues.==

*I recognize that man. He is, or was, a mage in the employ of an enemy of Particle Man's.*

==Magic...yes, that would explain why I can't trace it. The energies used both to make the machine and to power it must be magical.==

*I don't think this mage would be capable of something this large. It looks like there was a great deal of technology involved as well.*

==He needs medical treatment fairly fast. I'm not sure if I can get him as far as the nearest hospital.==

*Easier to just transmat him to the LNH. There's a phone in the office.*

While Blue made the telephone call to an increasingly bewildered Multi-Tasking Man, Windrider returned to his probe of the slagged machine. The mental fog was far worse here, and nothing firm could be seen against the background noise. The power could have been pulled from any newsgroup, and the power signature was totally unfamiliar.

In a few minutes, the burned body of the mage vanished in a transmat beam and Blue returned, starting his own probe of the machine. Seconds later, though, they both pulled back sharply from their examination.

*Did you sense that?* Blue Canary asked, suddenly looking up.

==I did,== Windrider answered, his feathers ruffling. ==Something just went off like a telepathic flare.==

*It must be nearby, since neither of us was actively searching for anything,* Blue noted.

Windrider sent agreement. ==Nearby or extremely powerful. It felt similar to the power used to attack Drifter.==

*Indeed. Perhaps we should investigate? I have a general feel for the location.*

==As do I. We're not going to find anything else here.== Windrider flapped up to an open window. ==Are you going to be able to keep up with me?== he asked as an afterthought when Blue lit on the windowsill beside him.

*I may not be a speed demon, but I'll be able to keep up as long as you don't go into any dives.* Both birds leapt from the window, powerful strokes of their wings gaining them quick altitude as they headed in the direction of the telepathic burst they had sensed. Windrider was truly surprised to look beside him and see Blue matching him stroke for stroke.

==You shouldn't be able to do that,== Windrider sent as he gained sufficient altitude to begin gliding. ==I never thought I'd be flying alongside a songbird.==

Blue chuckled. *I've been doing this for a long time. There's precious little that surprises me anymore.*

==You're no ordinary canary, are you?==

*No more than you're an ordinary eagle, Windrider.*

==No, I mean physically. You're absolutely tiny, Blue. Your wings shouldn't be able to propel you fast enough to keep up with me.==

*Don't worry yourself over it. Let's just say that I've had plenty of time to practice flying.* Windrider thought about this for a moment, then shrugged mentally. The two spent the next hour flying in silence toward their destination, making extremely good time due to an abundance of updrafts to soar upon, until they reached a small town.

==This is the place.==

*Yes, this is it. Do you see anything unusual? My vision is nowhere near as good as yours.*

==It's just a normal town. A good deal more organized than most.==

*How so?*

==The people on the streets are moving about like ants. Perfectly synchronized motion on a large scale. But there are three people in the middle of what looks like the main street that don't seem to fit the pattern. They're all sitting on some kinds of motorbikes. Maybe we should drop altitude and investigate further?==

*Yes, nothing should look out of the ordinary since birds on this world are, as a whole, unintelligent. Glide down so I can keep up with you, though.*

==Of course. Eagles don't swoop down all the time.==

*Perhaps we should probe the three who are different,* Blue suggested as the two birds began their spiralling descent.

==I was just about to suggest the same thing.==

*Interesting. I sense the three human minds, and I detect three other intelligences.*

==Confirmed. The three non-human intelligences are very alien. Nothing I'm familiar with.==

*There's a passing resemblence to machine intelligence, but the similarity is slight, and it doesn't make them any easier to read.*

==There's a large tree near where the three of them are talking. If we land there, we'll be able to hear what they're saying without having to invade their minds. If they're the attackers, there's no sense in taking the chance that one of them will sense our probes.==

*Good point. Wait, one of them is looking up...John Henry?*


*That's John Henry, I'm almost positive. John Henry was one of the first villains that Person fought as Particle Man.*

==So John Henry has the motive to attack Particle Man, but does he have the power? And why attack Occultism Kid and Drifter?==

*As far as I know, he doesn't even have the power to do this to Person, let alone Person and two other people.*

"That's Particle Man's bird!" John Henry shouted, pointing to the pair of birds that were descending toward the large tree a few yards from where he, King, and Lance stood.

"What?" King asked.

"Are you sure?" Lance asked.

==We're spotted!==

"I suppose you get a lot of deep blue canaries this far north often, then?" John snapped. "Of course I'm sure!"

*I've got him.* Without missing a beat, Blue focused a mental bolt and attempted to blast John with it. The mind blast shot toward John's untrained mind until it was dissipated by All-Smashing Dirt Bike, which hummed loudly for the brief instant in which it was active.

==What was that?==

*It was dissipated before it even reached him. Interesting....*

"King, take them!" John commanded.

"Done," King said. Brainwashing Dirt Bike hummed with power.

==Blue, what's...==

*Shields! She...*

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04