Chapter 8: Combine and Conquer

The group filed into the auditorium once more. Most of them glanced over at Will, still sitting in the same seat they had left him in.

Burnout leaned over and muttered to Mach. “Do you think he even moved?”

The mecher gave an exaggerated shrug. He looked around the room, searching for the only other member who had yet to speak. He found Unimportant sitting next to Red Racer, who was talking animatedly. The other hero turned towards the mecher.

Mach tilted his head. Unimportant did not seem to make a move, but a general aura of acceptance seemed to overtake his features.

Mach stood up. “It would appear that it is my turn.” He walked up to the stage, his suit deceptively quiet for its size.

Will flipped to a new sheet on his board and stared up at the stage. He had to force his mind back into the present. (‘This is no time to worry about the kid. I can talk to his sister later. I have to get through the night first.’).

Mach took one look at the chair, and shook his head before turning to the audience. “I don’t think this is time for slapstick.”

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As I’m sure you understand, I don’t have powers as such. Like most mecher’s, I possess a peculiar intelligence. However, my abilities are slightly more…limited than most.

I was not born with my intelligence. Or rather, I have not always been capable of expressing it. I was born with a disorder that prevented me from interpreting spoken language. I could hear fine and even identify others by their voice, but their words held no meaning for me.

For the longest time, I didn’t even understand the purpose of talking. I would watch my parents have conversations with each other, unable to comprehend that they could communicate without sign language or writing. Eventually, they were able to help me understand what it was I was missing. But there was still nothing we could do about it.

My parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find someone who could fix my problem. But no doctor would put time into a project that could only cure one person.

I was twelve before it happened. A man came walking to the door, claiming that he had once been a vegetable, trapped forever in his own body, but that he had been saved by a tel.

Azriel.

I wasn’t able to hear the conversation, but I saw the looks on my parents’ faces while they argued about what to do. My mother, I think she was the one who wanted take me right away. My father was worried about someone who claimed his powers were just what they needed.

In the end, my mother won out. After all, there was no harm in just seeing the man. And they hadn’t committed to anything yet anyway.

I assume most of you never met him. Azriel is a short, plump, ugly man, but he projects an aura of power and calm unlike anything else I have ever felt. They talked for a long time, my parents were trying to figure out how true his powers were. But he asked for nothing, he said that he would heal me for no other reason than I needed it.

And he was serious. It wasn’t until later that the world learned his motives, that his power was driving him more and more insane by the day. By that point he had lost the idea of wealth; it was actually in those few weeks that he was able to truly help people. What happened after that…well, there’s a reason no one can see him anymore.

I felt him rooting through my head, tracing his way around my mind until he found the problem. To hear him describe it, it was like he was unclogging a fucking sink. But it worked.

For the first time, I could hear my parents speak, and understand their words. He even helped with my voice, making sure I could actually speak the word I could hear.

But something else came from it too. Whatever he moved, or dislodged in my head, did something more than that. It gave me more than the words; I could sort through information in a way that made no sense to anyone else. Technology seemed to fall apart in front of me and I could understand everything about it.

I cannot create tech in the way most mecher’s can, and I definitely can’t make anything too ahead of our time, but I can disassemble and combine technology in a way that barely even makes sense to me.

(Mach flexed his wrist and miniature mini-gun popped out of his forearm).

Most of my suit isn’t my design, but I was able to take pieces from other mecher’s designs, at least the one’s they patented, and combine them into something completely my own.

My parents figured it out of course. There was no way I could build the armor and keep it hidden from them. I won’t go into details on that argument. Trust me when I say it’s nothing you want to hear. But it was my father who ended up convinced, and he got my mother to agree pretty quickly.

Of course, that didn’t mean much until the suit was finished. It took me 5 years to put this thing together to my liking. And even now, every time I look at it I see something missing, something that could be better.

I didn’t go out for real until this last fall. And when I started, I felt untouchable.

I found out two months ago exactly how much strain I’d been putting on my body. My suit is capable of doing amazing things; I, apparently, can’t keep up with it. But that’s not the reason I came here.

The reason I came is that the first thing my mind jumped to when I noticed the problem, was how to replace my bones or my muscles. I’ve seen what happens to mechers who start down that path, but I almost ran down it without hesitation the first time something went wrong.

My brain was all I had for a long time, but now? I’m not even sure if I know what I’m thinking any more. I look around, at buildings, cars, anything, and all I can see are inefficiencies, things that could be stronger or faster.

And it’s getting harder to hold myself back.

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Mach stopped talking. For a moment, it looked like he might continue, but he shook his head and walked off the stage.

Will wanted to kick himself. For a moment there, he had been relieved, because of all the problems in the group so far, this was one he knew how to deal with. Mach was right, mechers who started modifying their own bodies never turned out well. But every mecher thought about it at least once. Will knew who to talk to for Mach, even knew most of the process for kicking mechers out of that phase.

But all the same, he had felt relieved. Relieved that the problem was so simple, relieved that he wouldn’t have too much work for this one. He suppressed a groan at the thought. (‘I’m becoming used to this. I’m actually looking forward to this one because it’s familiar. What the fuck is wrong with me?’).

Will glanced over at the mecher. Burnout and Red Racer were trying to cheer him up, but Mach waved them off, asking for space.

(‘Dammit, I’m not getting too cold for this. I just need a night to clear my head and I’ll be back. Just one more and I can get some fresh air and sort this out.’). Will cracked his neck and watched Unimportant hop onto the stage.

It took a moment for everyone to realize he had gone on the stage, but they all immediately quieted down once they had. As always, Unimportant’s features were indistinguishable, but they all understood his nervousness anyway.

“Well then…I suppose…it’s my turn.”

 

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