|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Liberty League | | Turn 7 ||
"Not hurt them? But they've no such compunction restraining them!" - Psyche's thoughts in response to Dr. Z's plan
"Hmmmmm..." Zach says as the siesmography data details clear lines leading right to the Liberty Lair. "I guess needing to find *them* is out of the question."
Knowing that he's alone for the moment, Zach uses a force field to grab the device he'd been cobbling together from the lab bench - it flies across the room into his hand in a move that would astound even those who considered themselves well versed in the Liberty League's powers since Pavel had taught him a long time ago that Secret Weapons are best kept secret - and strode out of the door, coated with his invulnerable aura. Once the door has closed behind him, he picks up speed, moving a brisk pace towards the medical lab.
"Pavel, Gaslight, this is Zach. We seem to be under attack, and just when I was getting some interesting findings. I'm going to go protect Psyche and our other guest. Keep me informed of your situation." He flicks a switch to widen the communication band to the rest of the League.
Pavel stutter-stepped outside the laboratory. Be a bad turn if she was defenseless in the sandstorm thanks to boosting him. On the other hand, Zach was the right shield if she hadn't recovered by now.
Feeling a nigh-indescribable level of outrage, Dee is about to charge through whatever might lie between to rescue her parents from this twerp when Dr. Z's transmission arrives.
"Kids, Dee, the lair is under attack at the moment. If my hypothesis is correct, you can expect a similar attack at the Norris labs as well. Jack, if you aren't there already, rendevouz there and give the others a hand. And Terraform, don't try and merge sand with these entities just yet. There's an outside influence in their auras that you may be susceptable to."
Terry speaks, almost under his breath, though probably audible "I could _merge_ with these? What would that be like??"
Her initial response is a succinct obscenity, modified a moment later to,"Yeah, we got some here, too -- looks like their boss showed - some family history here I should know? Shatty's here. We'll keep an eye on Terry, and--" pause to unclench her jaw -- "don't be too rough on 'em, the critters might be alive." _This guy, on the other hand, has a sand castle's chance in hell._ "Dragon out.
* * *
Anyone observing Eleanor as she lay on the medi-bed couldn't fail to notice the frantic flickering of her eyes beneath her eye lids and the wailing noise she's making that's becoming louder with every second. Reacting to her increased pulse rate the NuRSE was in the process of activating an ambient noise generator when the sirens signalling the breach of security jerked Eleanor awake.
Startled by the after effects of the nightmare and the alarms shrieking their warning, Eleanor struggled to control the tears that were threatening and attempted to slide off the bed before realising that she was attached to NuRSE. Gritting her teeth she removed the line and stood up. Recognising that she was in the medi-lab and that somehow she'd got there from the roof, Eleanor quickly scanned the area for signs of life, noticing the occupant of the other bed as she did so. "Who the hell are you? You look worse than I feel!" she observed, " And what's going on now??"
Finding and then activating her communicator she is just in time to hear the end of Dee's message and is unphased when, moments later, Zach enters the lab.
"Good morning, Psyche." Dr. Z seems undisturbed by the concept of the invading sand creatures - but that's easy for him, what with being invulnerable. Still, his very presence makes Elanor feel more secure.
"I'm afraid the situation has gotten a little...complicated. Are you feeling well enough to take an active part in things?"
"I feel OK Doc, just a little disorientated. I presume I over did it earlier with Mancer?" she grimaces remebering the pain, " I take it it's not all hunky dory here; who's the guy on the bed?"
"His name is Mr. Moonlight. An older super-villain found at the scene of the outbreak, but I'm increasingly convinced that he had little to do with things. He took some significant injury during the initial eruption, which is why he's here." As he's speaking, Z is wasting no time, instead taking a look at the readings of Mr. Moonlight's condition.
"We're under attack by more of the things from this morning. They were created in the same process that made Terraform, but were more dissapated, took longer to grow and lacked an empathic template and educational structure during their nascent phase. As such, they aren't as intelligent as Terry - operating on an animalistic level - though they are smart enough for pack dyanmics. There's an outside psionic force uniting their actions and increasing their aggression at the moment. You encountered this?"
"Yes, there's definately someone controlling them & giving them direction. I tried to intervene earlier but was blocked - I'm ready to give it another go though."
Before Zach can go any further....
Gaslight calmly studies the images of the intruders, and quietly clucks in disapproval at the chatter of the League members. Perhaps a refresher course in radio discipline is in order...?
Switching his comm settings so that only the League's leader will hear him, GL says, "Gaslight to Z. The threat may originate with an Earthling terraforming researcher named Theo Eliot. He's a former collegiate colleague of the Norris', and has plundered their research databases within the past year. The Norris' are probably the primary targets of the attack. Do you copy? Over."
"That fits. Thanks for the update. These things aren't naturally this aggressive, and this Eliot fellow is the most likely cause of their current hostility. I'd rather not hurt any of them if we can help it."
"_Not hurt them? But they've no such compunction restraining them!_" Eleanor thought as visions of the sand enveloping them entered her mind. Shuddering she tried to concentrate on the conversation.
"Gaslight. The threat at the Norris' laboratory may be more than Silver Dragon and Shatterman can handle alone, and, if Eliot has some means of controlling these creatures, it may extend to Terraform as well -- making him a liability to them both. I suggest you try to bring Psyche around, if possible. She may be able to disrupt Eliot's control telepathically. You should also dispatch police to the Norris labs, and may wish to consider contacting some of our other colleagues within the city for assistance, though I doubt they'd arrive in time to be of much use. Copy? Over."
"I don't think anyone else will have time to deal with this either. If the Norris lab is the primary target, we might be better served to take the confict there as quickly as we can manage. If you can maintain the perimiter for a few minutes, Psyche and I will try some alternate methods for pacifying the creatures here, and then we can move on. They're likely vulnerable to electromagnetic field disruption or seperation from external silicates.
* * *
Gaslight strides unhurriedly towards the laboratory exit as he continues his communication. "Gaslight. I'm enroute to the armory to prepare a few surprises for our guests. Will let you know when they've been dealt with. Out."
Pausing near the exit, he stops to address Heisenberg. "Care to lend a hand, sir? I doubt the intruders will bother to pick out the house guests from the regular occupants."
Pavel had just recovered his stride when the lab door shooshed open, and he again broke stride to avoid colliding with the Dark Avenger.
"Careful N-.." Pavel interrupted himself on noticing Heisenberg's bemused presence. Pavel addressed the Uncertain Uber-villain, "Heisey, heard you were in town. Whaddaya know?" The two had never crossed swords directly, despite an astonishing history of chaotic interactions around the periphery of their respective schemes. That Heisenberg's scientific uncertainty and Mancer's gnostic nihilism (ultimately, different brands of chaos) should so often interfere spoke to an underlying Order both men would find unpalatable. At least Pavel would have, had he bothered to contemplate it.
After a moment's assessment, and reading Gaslight's unconcerned posture relative the villain, Pavel deduced Heisenberg was ruled out as a participant. "I caught Dragon's last. Seems us here and the kids over there is trouble. These things were tactical putty as far as channelling them, but doesn't seem their boss gives them leeway where strategic objectives go. You'n Z cooking up any ideas to reunite this two-front war?"
Gliding past the Mancer without breaking stride, Gaslight replied, "Z has something in mind. We're to occupy the intruders until he can work it out. I'm on way to the armory to pick up a few surprises prepared for just such a contingency as this. You're welcome to come along, if you wish."
Heisenberg followed, with supercilious dignity, "Still a fringe operator I see, Magician."
Mancer rose off his feet and glided effortlessly beside the master villain. "You know how it goes," he commented slyly, "gangsta rap hits Mars and the kids can't hear from good guys." His eyes narrowed at the thought of the old antagonist wading through the Liberty League's armory, and the floorplan in between. "Maybe Heisey and I should..."
Gaslight's deliberate stride was deceptively unhurried, and he made excellent progress down the central hallway toward the primary mag-lift, before halting midway to the elevator doors. His senses strained to their limits, he seemed to be listening intently to some vague and distant noise. "They're here."
Almost as if in response to Gaslight's softly intoned comment, the elevator doors buckled, then smashed open thunderously. The open elevator shaft regurgitated a mass of reddish sand onto the hallway floor. The carpet of sand shifted eerily for a long moment until several distinct shapes began to take form.
The shapes were vaguely humanoid, as before, but monstrously misshapen, with constantly shifting torsos and grossly proportioned limbs. They were also armed, with cruel looking natural weapons formed from the substance of their own bodies. Sharply pointed fangs for piercing, long claws for rending, hammer-like fists for crushing... these creatures had come prepared for mortal combat.
"I don't see the lev platform," Gaslight stated, mildly annoyed. "They must have disable the mechanism. I'm going for the open shaft. Try to keep them occupied here until I get back." By the time he finished speaking, Gaslight had already conjured forth The Machine from its dark lair in his subconscious and was sprinting directly into the assembled mass of the terra-critters.
* * *
"Understood." Zach turns back to Eleanor. "Well, now you know as much as we do. Are you feeling up for running some psionic interference?"
"I'll do what I can," Psyche said as she sat herself crosslegged in the lotus position on the floor. Concentrating she pictured a moat and wall around her, building up her metal defences before seeking out the controlling mind again. This time she'd be prepared, she'd disrupt the connection and impose her own wishes on the sand creatures....
A barely audible "bleep" rattles across Dr. Z's communicator. He immediately regsiters it as Roberto's system's in distress. It appears the creatures have already taken the reception area on the first floor despite the robot's valiant efforts to hold them at bay. Gaslight and Pavel would certainly encounter that group as opposition in their efforts to get to the armory in the first sub-basement.
Unfortunately, the sand pouring out of the vents overhead and through the cracks around the med-lab door suggests the Science-Warrior and Mental Maven have problems of their own on the fourth floor.
Keeping that frequency open, Zach speaks into the comunicator. "Roberto, Prep Alpha, Nu shielding, 3 seconds, Omega-Omega, execute," trusting that their faithful robot receptionist would download his latest memory records into one of the mainframe storage banks and freeze the bank in a stasis field. He then flicked on one of the white rooms monitor screens to that location, waiting to see if the electrical pulse generated by Roberto's shell detonating had the predicted effect on the sand creature's EM/PE auras.
The explosion and small EMP ripple impact the creatures just as Z thought it would. The ones closest to Roberto have lost all cohesion for the time being. The others further away but still caught in the blast are thrown and stunned momentarily.
As the silicate savages begin to congeal into their more familiar anthropoid shape, Eleanor pushes her effort deeper. She has yet to encounter the human presence she felt before. She can sense the other "mega-consciousness" but to a lesser degree. It seems as if she doesn't need to interfere directly with her telepathy at the moment for her empathic attempts to have some modicum of success....
While Psyche attempts her psionic manipulation, Zach tells NuRSE to wake up it's patient to a gentle, calm adrenal state and additional endorphins to deal with any lingering wounds. He then calmly watches, waiting to see what effects Elanor has on the monsters and how long it will take for Mr. Moonlight to come around.
Ignoring the beads of perspiration beginning to form on her brow Psyche imagines the cosiest, calmest scene she can and taking a deep breath relaxes further into her meditative state. In her mind's eye she's picturing her yoga relaxation exercises, concentrating on relaxing each muscle in turn and building up that feeling of well being until there is nothing, no anger, no fear, no aggression just peace and tranquillity. Then she projects that feeling outwards drawing others into her sphere of emotional influence and without conscious thought reduces the sand creatures to a quiescent state.
The first pack, the one from the vent, eases into submission much to Eleanor's delight. Unfortunately there are others to contend with as well. A steady stream is constant from the vents, doors, and threadbare seams in the flooring.
"Three, two, one... Hello, Mr. Moonlight. I'm Zachary Zevon of the Liberty League. I'm afraid I had to wake you up before we'd fully healed the damage you'd taken earlier, as our base is under attack by more of these..." Zach indicates the creatures massing nearby, "...native silicates. I was wondering if you'd care to led a hand."
The second group that slipped in under the door takes shape around Dr. Z. Another pack is attempting to batter down the security doors themselves. Z's Strattontech scanner hiccups momentarily as it shoulders more of the processing burden as some of the mainframes in the lab go down from the assault there....
"And if you have any familiarity with where these creatures originated, or a Mr. Theo Eliot, now would be a good time to mention it." Zach, while still obviously calm and collected, is starting to look somewhay annoyed at the property damage.
He pats himself down, clearly looking for something until he realizes he is no longer in the attire he left his house in this morning. The old man stands as proudly as one can in a hospital gown. Stringy white wisps of hair obscure his vision for a moment. He slowly takes in his new location and predicatment. "What in blue blazes? Where the hell is that bastard, Heisenberg?"
Zach hides a grin, thinking about honor among thieves. "I don't know anything about his parentage, but Mr. Heisenberg is with Gaslight and Martian Mancer right now. After these silicate creatures greviously injured you, Heisenberg was kind enough to protect you until I could transport you to our medical facilities here."
"Unfortunately, I'm afraid the situation has followed us. As I said, any information about what you were doing when the attack happened, knowledge of these creatures or familiarity with Mr. Eliot would be appreciated."
"Psyche, how are you holding up?"
"I was defending myself when these things sacked the dinner, is what I was doing. My shields started to wane and one of the creatures smashed through it. I don't know a damn thing about them or any Mr. Eliot.
"That's about what I expected. Stay close. We'll be leaving soon."
It was quite a challenge to project soothing thoughts when chaos was reigning very close by but with the group of silicates quiet Psyche was able to respond to Dr.Z's question without too much difficulty, "I'm fine at the moment but I can't seem to extend the effect towards the others." Sounding a little disappointed with her limited impact she then adds, "Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr. Moonlight I'm Psyche. I hope your shields are up to strength now as I think you're going to need them."
Zach keeps fiddling with the small object in his hands - it looks something like a cross between a flashlight and a Tesla coil - making little adjustments while he manuevers himself to put himself between the silicate creatures and his companions.
"I expect this to be handled shortly - it looks like they're massing to attack. Mr. Moonlight, if you could stay behind me and take cover, I should be able to use my indestructible body to protect you from the attack."
* * *
"Gaslight, plan B," Mancer called out sharply. "Popper's the closest thing to a sand prison on this floor." Pavel referred to the pneumatic lift required to move Dr. Z's more cumbersome equipment to the various labs, the equipment that either outweighed the mag-lift's capabilities, or couldn't harmlessly fit in the smaller shaft. Shatterman was the one that coined the 'popper' name, after the pressurized shaft's tendency to pop ear drums for big lifts. It had the advantage of being airtight, industrial strength, and pressurized.
Gaslight halted in mid-stride, rocking back on the balls of his feet. His mind instantly weighed the stratagem posed by the rudimentary suggestion Mancer had aired against the flight to the distant armory. The vigilante had no doubt that he could easily reach the armory despite the murderous mob of terra-critters blocking his path, but it was unlikely he would be able draw all of the sand-monsters after him and he did not wish to be responsible for whatever dire fate might befall his companions in his absence. Besides, while the "special surprises" in his war chest were ideally suited to battling these silicon terrors, Gaslight had good reason to keep their existence a continued secret from his companions.
"Popper it is," Gaslight said curtly. "Let's annoy them a bit, shall we? The hounds are more apt to give chase if the foxes nip them on the nose first." Foregoing elegance for the moment, the shrouded terror drew two pearl-handled, nickel-plated Colt .45 long-slides from somewhere deep within the hidden confines of his cloak and began emptying their magazines into the mass of terra-critters. Despite the narrow confines of the hallway, the banging of the guns was remarkably quiet, if not quite entirely noiseless (Gaslight had long ago modified the weapons to fire sub-sonic rounds, reducing the damage they did but effectively silencing their thunderous cacophony at the same time).
The bullets tore into the foremost ranks of the terra-forms, spraying granules of terra-flesh as they hit. Though mostly ineffectual (sand was, after all, the best bullet-stopper known to man), the rounds seemed to serve their intended purpose of annoyance. The sandy wave of terra-critters suddenly roiled forward, bright scoring of the metal walls and floors in its wake.
Smiling beneath his mask, Gaslight surrendered his body to the safekeeping of The Machine. It gracefully folded him back from the onrushing wave, leaving his conscious mind free to work on the details of the current plan. A back flip, a bound off the wall, and Gaslight was a blur through the computer room door.
Mancer and Heisenberg blinked at the black streak that flashed between them.
"Ah, to have that much energy again," Heisenberg opined mock-wistfully. He seemed unconcerned with the impaling spike of hardened silicate lancing towards him. Pavel forced him back, building airspeed.
"You should see the _young_ kids." With one hand driving Heisenberg forward, the Mancer tapped his PDA with the other. His hand took on an ethereal glow. He murmured something archaic in Norwegian, brushing the frame of the doorway as he pushed Heisenberg through. The interior of the large computer room was an ordered array of work stations, ideally arranged for research purposes but rather poorly suited to rapid passage.
For most, anyway. Ahead, Gaslight was bounding acrobatically from station to station. His stepping stones were the edges of tabletops, desktop terminals, and even flat-screen monitors seemingly too frail to support his weight. Utilizing the ancient body-equilibrium techniques of karumi-jutsu, the Machine swiftly and unerringly guided Gaslight across the chamber, with only the barest quivering of the pictures in the monitors to mark his passage.
Still "nipping the noses" of the terra-creatures, Gaslight had holstered his pistols and now hurled a fan of titanium throwing spikes behind him as he fled. He had not looked back before his throw, but the spikes nonetheless sailed safely past Pavel and Heisenberg -- though uncomfortably close to both -- into the mass of silicate pursuers beyond the doorway. Gaslight's attack again mostly ineffectual, the spikes were buried and lost in the bodies of the sand-creatures with little discernible effect.
The Mancer raced after his younger comrade, still driving the Master of Improbability before him. Only after Pavel vaulted Heisenberg over three rows of work stations did the old villain finally condescend to pump his own legs. "If you please," he said coolly, freeing himself from the Martian Mancer's impel. Behind them, the sand creatures surged through the small doorway. Their bodies inter-mixed obscenely, fluidly producing a range of weapons, from claws to talons to bludgeons and back, as the mass attempted to close the distance.
Nimbly avoided a lashing, clawed tendril, Pavel zipped through the airspace to the far doorway. "Watch those sandy claws...sandy claws? Sandy Claws?! I have completely misunderstood that tradition." Behind him, the sand creatures were closing in on Heisenberg and the room became a sparkling, tumbling wave of sand, furniture and machinery. The cacophony contrasted sharply with Gaslight's silent passage moments before.
"Eyes," Pavel remarked to Heisenberg as the villain cleared the exit. The bulk of the creatures splurted through the too-small opposite aperture, separating and reforming through the workstation jumble. The villain's eyes flickered to Pavel, whose hand was held in front of his eyes as a shield to the room behind. Heisenberg covered his eyes just as a star flashed into existence in the confines of the computer room. A blinding, swirling beam lanced from the open door, casting the hallway in searing white and deep black shadow.
Heisenberg blinked the spots from his eyes to see Mancer flashing ahead down the hallway, which appeared gloomy in the afterglow. Gaslight raced still further down the hall, practically a speck in the distance. "That was a cattle prod, not a death trap, Uncertain Man," Pavel noted sharply. Heisenberg again accelerated to keep up, dashing through the bowels of the Liberty League HQ.
* * *
Whether it's because he's not as angered as Dee or as conflicted as Terry or because he takes excellent precautions against tinnitus and is hearing is superb, he's not sure but he is the first to hear it. Near the lab proper there's a noise, like the vault doors have been blown of their hinges from a tremendous pressure. Jack darts to the door of the romper room to see what's what
"Judas priest on a pony!"
A sluice of sand is streaming down the hall. The torrent is heading straight for the powered trio, barely losing any steam as it obliterates rooms off the main path. A monstrous face, screaming in rage, can be seen at the crest of the reddy wave.
"So much for the path of nonviolence," Dee comments. "Plan B, guys - thataway. Access corridor, we can cut around it and get to the lab that way."
So saying, she moves.
Terry hesitates trying to exert some control like he did over the individual terries. Can he make an indent in the encroaching sands? Perhaps just slow down its advance?
"Do you think its angry because we killed its children?"
"No, I think it's being controlled by a nutjob who's going to get his head kicked in," she snaps over her shoulder.
"No need to be nasty to me" he says quietly. Maybe if he could stop the sand Dee would be happier.
"I'm not mad at *you*. This freak is after mom and dad."
Terry stands his ground as he tries to exert some influence but to no avail. There are too many of them in the wave, too much sheer weight and force for his attempts to have any real impact. The wave approaches ever faster....
Deciding that merging doesn't look particularly enticing at this precise moment Terraform assumes the form of a bear, he is tempted to find a bandage to indicate a sore head to annoy his sister but thinks better of it.
Instead he lopes along behind her, looking over his shoulder the whole time at the encroaching sands.
"You might wanna pick up the pace there, Yogi." Jack quips as he flies past Terry. "You too, slowpoke" he smiles as he zips past Dee, imitating a back-stroke in the air. Reaching the door first, he holds it open for the two who eek in just in the nick of time.
Glancing back, Terry can see his childhood room smashed to bits by the wave as it crashes down on it like a tsunami.
"This way." She uncharacteristically ignores Shatterman's jibe. As the three of them race to the lab, she urges Rajni to try and find her mother, to see if she's all right. The little dragon's hood is flared in reaction to Dee's fury, wings half-spread in readiness for motion, but she remains securely coiled for the moment.
...and then they hear it. First it sounds like a scurrying, like cockroaches in the walls. Seconds later, three packs of the silicates are upon them. They seep out of the architecture itself and begin to take shape.
Alone in his thoughts for a moment, Terry thinks, "As a silicate seeps through can I solidify its shape? That would stop it in its tracks and also block the spaces it is using, right?"
Terry stops a few in their tracks, three to be exact, but not all as shapes warp past the impromptu barrier.
The Silver Dragon gives rare thanks for her height or lack thereof - a low center of gravity being a blessing at times like this - and sets herself to charge through any opposition like a rugby player with the goal in sight.
The Woad Raiders, the rugby team at Dee's alma mater, would be damn impressed with her effort. Dee easily floors her target. Scattering a good amount of it's mass across the floor like so much powder in the process.
"They're just trying to slow us down!"
"Well," says Shatterman, "then it's time they learned how tough we really are!" Then, hesitantly, "Uh, what protocol are we using here?"
"The salad fork goes farthest to the left. Whattya mean, protocol?"
"I mean," said Shatterman as he rolled over in the air to face 'Dragon, "are we being nice to the critters 'just in case' or are we blasting them into little teensy-tiny bits?"
Terry comments, "Umm. Don't you think we should find out whether we're killing a sentient before we actually kill a sentient? I think you should treat them as if they were people...."
"Play nice, Buns, or you don't get a birthday present this year, how 'bout that? Less chatter, more moving."
"I loves a challenge," says Shatterman.
Terry runs behind Dee using his power to weaken the cohesion of the silicates. Hopefully it'll make it easier for her to make progress and we'll get to the lab all the sooner....
Shatterman, doing an over-the-top impression of Silver Dragon, uses the force of his flight power to shoulder-push aside villainous Martian sandmen. "Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em," he grumbles aloud, although it is unclear if he means the sandmen or his teammates.
One final push should be all that it takes for Dee and Terry to finally make it through to their mother. Jack is certainly doing his share keeping their rear flank free. A few more paces and they should be at the end of the access tunnel.
"Dee!!! Terry!!!" their bound screams as she hears the fighting approach through the side corridor. The plaintive plea carries itself to the heroes even above the din of their conflict.
"My little girl is gonnae hand ye yer arse, Eliot." Their equally bound father says even as his speech slips even more into his rich Scotts accent due to the unwanted presence of this spectre from their past.
"Hush, mah hens. She'll dae nae sic' thin'. I've prepared fur everythin'." A sly grin unwraps itself from Eliot's thin lips.
His mother's cry rings in his ears for a moment before being drowned out by another sound. A noise. Not even. It's in his head. Almost like when Eleanor speaks to him but ...deeper somehow. It's as if they're his own thoughts out of control. His thoughts from another time? another place?
Is it a language? Words and tones strangely familiar yet that he can't recall hearing before. They dance about the edge of reason. Buzzing, leering, crawling for an eternity. The chants build up from a whisper to a clamor in an instant.
Terry is stunned speechless, trancelike and frozen in place. Commanded into immobility against his will by some strange power. The chorus dies down leaving the young omnimorph without recollection of the prior few moments but still the effects remain.
The remaining creatures take the opportunity to literally throw themselves at Jack. Within an eyeblink he is entombed within the swirling mass of the creatures. In another instant they begin to solidify their form from flowing sand to mountainous granite.
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