SYSTEM CORRUPTORS #23 [The cover is split into three pieces diagonally. In the top left hand corner is a black and white photo of a man standing next to an open car door. In the middle pieces is bars, containing a creature that is glaring outwards. In the bottom right hand corner is an image of two people sitting in a cafe.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "FILES" "Get me the Eye." ... "Yes, Heir?" "Project X11R6. How is it progressing?" "He's left the hotel. Currently traveling across the country." "When did this happen?" "Just recently, Heir. He was picked up just after the hotel collapsed in upon itself." "Yes. I am aware of that. Show me the first photograph of what happened." "Immediately, Heir." It was a black and white aerial photograph, taken by one of the many satellites in orbit. It showed Project X11R6, aka Amorphous Lad, aka Rick Mansfield, with his hand on an open door of a car. The car itself was a Mercedes, currently not fitting into the photo due to the tight focus of the picture. The door was to the passenger side, so someone else was driving, but that person wasn't visible. Neither was the number plate, but that would have been gotten from other sources. The driver should now be a known quantity. "Visual feed." _-~-_ Rick opened the door to the car, and looked inside. Sitting behind the steering wheel was someone he had met a few months ago, Thad Ritchards. Since then, however, his life had been drastically different. Rick finally decided that being written like this wasn't bad. It was better than the nothing he had faced before. But, it wasn't the best thing that had ever happened to him. "Weren't you supposed to meet me down at the bus stop?" Rick asked, not really caring about the answer. Thad shrugged. "It gave you something to do while I waited for this." Thad motioned to the hotel behind Rick, eliciting a look of surprise from him. "You knew that this was going to happen? You left me here for this?" Rick's tone was nearly accusatory. "Think. Without you, would they have won?" Although this sounded rather egotistical, when Rick thought about it, he saw that Rick was right. Starfire and Skeal would have been trapped up in room 911 from nearly the beginning. And there were other times that no-one but him had been able to help. "I'd hardly call that winning, though," muttered Rick. Seeing the look of acceptance on Rick's face, Thad said "Get in. We're leaving." "What about my things?" "I think it's a bit late now to worry about that." True. Rick couldn't exactly go back to his room anymore. And it wasn't as if he really needed clothes, not when he could change his body's appearance to a pair of jeans, a shirt and some shoes. Still, he usually kept up the habit so that there wouldn't be any embarrassing problems if he forgot to keep the morph. That and the shoes helped protect his feet. Rick got into the car, and strapped in. "Where are we off to this time?" "Back." "Back?" "Back to Net.ropolis," said Thad, engaging drive, and starting the car moving. "Why?" "You've got a date." The car accelerated down the road. _-~-_ "Where are they now?" "Just passing through Net.York, Heir." "Keep on them. Get a report ready for Project F19C6." "Yes, Hei-" "Get me the Snifter." ... "Yes, Heir?" "Status on Meateater?" "Fully grown." "Active?" "Not to any cognitive degree. Currently only shows signs of a primitive, brutal thought process. Moves restlessly, but to no discernible purpose." "Show me." The screen switched to showing what was basically a metal cage. The room was large, but the edges were out of sight, hiding whatever or whoever choose to stand there. In the middle of the room, lighted mostly from above to avoid any light spilling to the sides and revealing those watching, was a large cell, with bars for walls. Inside was a simple cot for a bed, and a bucket containing dirty water. Straw covered the floor, trampled down by the ... beast woman that lived there. "Open link." _-~-_ Doctor Hieronymous stood by nervously. He didn't like being in this room. He didn't like talking to the thing in the cage. He didn't like that he had been personally responsible for helping the thing in the cage be created. But what he really didn't like was being found in the morning, his body cold, his brain fried alive by some drug that would have been slipped into his food three weeks before somehow. That was the alternative to doing this, which was why he did this. It wasn't ever said that he'd been killed if he refused, but he taken part in too many 'refusal contracts' and knew the price. Doctor Hieronymous studied the creature in the cage. Although it looked like the patient he had once worked on, it had none of her personality, and less manners. The creature hardly even rated the pronoun _she_, seeming to be a mass of aggression and rage. It paced though the cage, walking from one side to the other, glaring out at the nothingness around it. It was clothed in only the most simple of tunics. Anything more tricky provoked extreme violence from the creature while trying to put it on the creature. Even so, this one had been worn for a while, and needed changing, but no-one volunteered. Doctor Hieronymous swallowed, then stepped out into the light. "Hello Marsha," he said. The creature immediately turned and leapt for him, crashing into the bars. Energy coursed through it, and the creature fell back, dazed. The bars had to be electrified, or else the creature had a tendency to escape. "Hello Marsha," said the doctor again, going down on his haunches so he was at the same level. "How are you? Hmm?" The creature growled, menacingly,. "Are you willink to talk yet? Hmm?" The creature snarled, then positioned itself so it was kneeling. It lent forward slightly, its face one of concentration. "Yes? You are rememberink me? Doktor Hieronymous? I helped you. Before. You remember." That wasn't strictly true, and the doctor felt the guilt well up again. The creature put its head to one side, and subjected the doctor to an enquiring look. It lent forward further, moving its head from side to side, as if trying to work out what the moving meat in front of it was. "You are rememberink me?" Doctor Hieronymous moved closer to the cage. This was a good sign. It was the first time it had taken any interest in her, despite the number of times he had visited. "Perhaps we could-" The doctor's voice was cut off as the creature shot out a wiry hand through the cage bars and grabbed the doctor by his throat. "Errak," was all Hieronymous could say, as he grappled at the hand at his throat, but was unable to pry it off. The creature grinned wildly as it pulled the doctor close, bringing his head into contact with the bars. The grinned twisted wider as the doctor's screams were chocked out into the air. Unfortunately, the bars also contacted its own hand, and the creature was forced to put its hand back, or have it burnt off. Its claws raked across the doctor's throat, pulling away skin and letting blood flow free. Hieronymous fell backwards, his hand grabbed his throat, trying to keep the fire he felt from burning it away. Marsha watched his struggles, nibbling at the torn flesh, and licking the blood. _-~-_ "The man's a fool." "Yes, Heir." "Have him attended to. Unfortunately, since Meateater was cloned from his patient, he's the only we have who might understand whatever mind might have transfered." "Yes, Heir." "And have her clothing changed." "Yes, H-" "Give me the Eye, again." .. "Yes, Heir?" "Project F19C6..." "Is located and ready for your inspection." "Good. Show me." The image was of a cafe taken from across the street. Although there was some reflection on the cafe window, two people could be seen inside, sitting next to the window. One was an African-American woman, mid twenties. She held a coffee cup in one hand, and was in the middle of writing something down on something beside her. Siting opposite her was a man who, even from this distance, looked dejected. He was looking outwards, but not at the camera, and not at anything in the photo. "Continue." _-~-_ Marsha Burgenstock finished the sentence, and looked up at her companion. Gods, but he still looked miserable. He didn't dare to look at anyone in the cafe, so he stared resolutely outside at nothing. She had explained several times that there was nothing that could be done about, so he just may as well accept it, but he couldn't. Rather sweet in a pathetic way, but he accepted every responsibility to do with himself, even ones he didn't cause. Marsha tapped his hand to get his attention, then showed him the note pad. "Do you want to back and sit in the bus?" it read. He shook his head, then took the note pad and started writing. It was a rather slow way of communicating, but there wasn't much choice. Due to Queen Enterprises, the man in front of her, known as Inacoustic Kid, had his silencing powers extended to a permanent 20 meters. And this annoyed everyone on the bus who wanted to talk. And everyone with whom they had traveled with or stayed near recently. And that's what was getting Inacoustic Kid down. It was his problem but there wasn't anything he could do about it. Just try to survive and get back to the LNH and see if they could help. Marsha had considered ringing them directly and a lift in a flight.thingee, but she also wanted to keep a low profile. Since breaking out of Queen Towers in Sin.ci.net.ty, Marsha had tried to keep out of any light that Queen Enterprises might see, and that involved traveling slowly, and only daring to take buses for some of the harsher parts of the journey. Inacoustic Kid moved the pad back. "Stay here and drink your coffee. Enjoy it." Marsha was surprised at the last bit, and looked up to see a faint smile fading from Inacoustic Kid's mouth. "You want to go back alone?" she wrote. Inacoustic Kid's writing was urgent. "I wont leave you here with them." True. Her fellow travelers hadn't been inured to them by their enforced silence, and would easily take it out on her the moment they found out that their voices worked. "Change buses again?" she offered. Although their money was almost nonexistent, they should be able to scrape enough together for that. "Too close. Leave it. Not important." was the terse reply. They were only a day away now, so there really wasn't much point. They had endured this much, so they could last a little longer. Even so, Marsha tossed back the rest of her coffee. She stood and motioned to Inacoustic Kid. Followed by hostile stares, they left the cafe, and returned to the bus. Eventually sound returned to the cafe, but conversation was muted. _-~-_ "Is the Hand ready to strike out?" "When you give the word." "Not yet. But I-" "Hello." "I said I wasn't to be inter-!.. Majesty!" "Is she back?" "Yes, Konrad, I am. Leave us." .. "A pleasure to see you again, ma'am." "I had to come back, Adam, especially after you let Project Silence out." "How-?" "I have my sources, and you should know better than to ask." "Yes, your majesty. I'm sorry, your majesty." "That's better. Leave me, Adam. I'll contact you when I want something trivial done." "...yes, your majesty." "Goodnight, Adam." "Goodnight... my Queen." -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Credits: -------- Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. Allllll mine! And that's the third Pentad finished. Look out for some of these threads to be taken up in future issues of _Fan.Boy_.Back to the Index.