An encounter in Harlem.
Date: Thursday, all shortly after midnight
Malachi and Union
After the funeral and the rather tense meeting with the Vice President, the Avengers parted ways at least in part. Union volunteered to fly Malachi home. Back at the youth center in Harlem, the heroes got to talking, and one thing led to another, and soon it was quite late. Union cannot help but marvel at the man the boy he once knew has become. Malachi, in turn, gets a glimpse into a chapter of his father's life that has mostly been closed to him. The conversation has hit a lull, both men enjoying a comfortable silence which is shattered abruptly by a terrified shriek from the street outside.
"Malachi!" a booming, metallic voice roars. "Show yourself! Face the wrath of White Power!"
"Fuss and Bother! Doesn't this ever stop?" Adrian says as he pulls the hood of his cyber-suit over his head and re-activates the neural circuitry. _The transition is getting smoother_ he thinks as he crosses the room to the front window, surreptitiously pulling an inch of the curtain away to see what was happening on the street.
Peering through the windowleft, right, down, and upAdrian can see no sign of who or whatever White Power is.
Pulling his mask on, Malachi races towards the back of the building. There, a conveniently placed dumpster obscures one of the rear exits. A quick leap over a fence and a sprint down an alley has Malachi coming onto the street away from the Youth Center. Maintaining his guard, Malachi searches for the source of the booming, metallic voice. _White Power?_ he thinks to himself, _You've got to be kidding me._
Adrian drops the curtain and slides the his helmet over his head and turns back to the room, "Malachi, it looks...Gone. How does he do that?"
Union has barely had time to finish the sentence when he hears Malachi's voice cutting through the night "Over here. Don't you have something better to be doing, this time of night?"
With an electromagnetic push Union floats up to the top floor of the Youth Center, opening a window before him and closing it behind him as he silently rises above the scene to get a good overview of the events, so that he can pick his moment to intervene.
From across the street, atop a tenement, comes a muffled WHOOMP! WHOOMP! WHOOMP!, followed immediately by three small missiles that spiral down to street level and then begin to race each other toward Malachi, their smoky tails intertwining as they come. Union, higher up that Malachi, catches glimpse of a dark figure racing back into deeper shadows.
"Missiles? People live here fool," screams Malachi as he sprints at top speed towards the projectiles. At the last moment, he leaps up and to the left, rolling in mid-air and rebounds off a fire escape. He hits the street running and prepared to dodge some more. _'Gotta keep them busy 'til they run out of fuel,_ he thinks, tumbling out of the way.
Union smoothly accelerates across the street, holding a position roughly 20 feet or so over the tenement roof and taking care to not lose sight of the fleeing figure. _Now's as good a time as any to try this out..._ he thinks, holding his hand up over and behind his head, pointer, middle and ring fingers flat, pinkie and thumb extended. A moment's thought sends an arc of electricity between the two extended fingers, reflected back by the curve of the hand, acting as a wide beam spotlight swinging across the rooftop.
_Now where are you..._ Union thinks, alert and ready to evade any attack aimed at him or his very visible light.
Overhead, Union generates a beam of bright light that plays across the rooftop, casting long dark shadows between chimneys, water towers, and rooftop gardens. It doesn't take him long to find his target. Standing between a storage shed and the backside of a billboard is a lone figure that is obviously a robot. It is humanoid in construction, but with no head. Sprouting from its shoulders are various antennae and something that looks like a tiny radar dish. Its right arm appears to be some sort of rocket launcher. Its left arm ends in a three-pronged claw. Its legs are jointed as a human's, but its feet are blocky rectangles of metal covered in rubber. The whole thing is painted flat black. As Union's spot light reveals its position, the robot remains motionless except for the tiny radar dish, which oscillates back and forth rapidly.
Moving with grace and speed that belies his muscular build, Malachi springs into action. The missiles are fast, but do not corner well, and the Harlem Hero and the heat-seekers begin a deadly game of cat and mouse. The missiles close in, triangulating on Malachi, who twists, ducks, and weaves, avoiding the projectiles which then jet out in looping paths before coming back in from different directions to try again.
Then, about thirty feet away, the front door to one of the dwellings opens, and a heavy set woman in a terry cloth bathrobe steps onto the landing.
"What the hell's going on outYIKE!"
One of the heat-seekers veers away from Malachi and races towards the woman, who is frozen with panic!
"NO! Get back!" Malachi leaps forward, grabbing the errant missile and heaving it skywards. Then, realizing he has lost the advantage in this game, he spins towards the two missiles hurtling towards his back and springs forward, blocking them as far as possible away from the woman, trying to absorb as much of the explosion as he can.
"OK, hold it right...there..." Union's voice fades as he realizes that he is not facing a human terrorist at all, but some sort of mechanical construct. _Who could be responsible for this? Zola? But he's still in prison...? Regardless, you have to deal with the thing. The rubber feet means I have to go about this a little differently._
Union's entangling cable lashes out, whirring as it flies from it's coil and streaks down past the robot, wrapping itself quickly around the billboard's metal supports. Then Union banks down, right and back up, bringing the cable in contact with the robots chest and radar dish before unleashing a punishing electrical charge. _Therenot I've grounded it, and the charge should short it out._
Malachi moves with inhuman grace and power, hand-springing across the hood a parked car, tumbling in mid-air, and intercepting the missile with his body. The explosion shakes him to the bone, and the pressure wave hurls the woman back into her home to land on her back with a muffled cry. The second after Malachi regains his footing, the other two missiles hit. The blasts hurl Malachi up and to the left, bouncing him off the facade of the tenement and to the sidewalk below.
Meanwhile, overhead, Union casts his entangling cable between himself, the robot, and the billboard, and lets the juice flow. Oddly, the robot makes no move at all to defend itself. There is a KRKL! and a THOOMP!, and the mechanical attacker shorts out, its torso casing cracking open as it falls over.
Malachi rolls with he fall, coming to his feet and rushes over to the door. "Ma'am? Are you all right? Ma'am?"
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al