Month: June 2015

Chapter 58: The Birth of Frankenstein

The ground shook beneath him. Each step sent him hurtling along the country, flying faster and faster.

The steel bones and iron sinew warped his skin as he churned along with more efficiency and precision than any natural creation could ever hope to achieve. He had been considered handsome once, an Adonis unmatched by any but the most dedicated and naturally gifted man, but now even the act of smiling would distort features in a way that would have cause his own mother to flee in terror. That is, of course, if he hadn’t already corrected the inefficiencies of such needless expressions.

He had had a different name once, but he had no use for names anymore. Even the one the lesser being had given him was little more than a bluff. It was an excuse to disguise his majesty beneath a moniker that they no longer feared. But even those fools could not help but flee when his shadow approached.

It had started with his arms. His right arm had been crushed under the force of Eclipse’s reality warp. He had had to remove it himself, or else his entire self may have been pulled into a world doomed to be removed from the flow of time itself. Replacing it had been difficult with only one hand, but it gave him good practice. The second arm had been by choice, the weight and strength difference had proven too difficult to compensate for. It was far easier to have a matching set.

He survived for a decade with only his arms, and eventually his legs, replaced with machines. He hadn’t settled for merely replacing them; his creations were so perfect and efficient he could power them off of the chemicals already carried by his blood and the energy carried by his nerves.

He couldn’t settle for just mimicking the unimaginative shapes that nature had deemed proper for him. He had to be better than anything thrown at him, so he worked to improve and modify his limbs. And now there was no mecher on the planet who could hope for a suit that could accomplish tasks he could do with his bare hands.

Of course, the stress of connecting metal directly to his skeleton had eventually necessitated replacing his bones one by one, until only his skull and spine remained. Eventually he settled for coating them instead. Even now, those remained some of the few natural pieces of his body.

There was no heart beating beneath his chest. He had long since discarded it in favor of a smoother flowing pump. Its purpose was the same, though he didn’t have actual blood anymore. The fluid that now ran through his veins didn’t require lungs, what little oxygen he needed could be retrieved through his skin and taken to his brain.

He had been a hero, even after he had started to lift himself above the confines of mortality. The strength of his new body let him match any villain in the world blow for blow, with or without a suit. Eventually they saw him as a being above normal heroes. They had invited him to serve as a leader, an example to all those beneath him. They offered him a chance to stand by those who would bring about an age of peace. But nothing they offered could have changed his path. He did not want to stand by humanity’s leaders, he wanted to be above them, to show them the true path. As Prometheus lifted humans above the beasts with fire, he would give them the light born of his genius and make them gods.

When he had professed his accomplishments, proven to the world that he was something far greater than any human, they screamed. They called him a monster and a villain. They accused him of wanting to replace them with machines, or worse, trap their minds within metal boxes so that they could never escape. It was obvious that he had failed to show them the light. But his genius wasn’t wrong, it could never be. He merely hadn’t done enough; they hadn’t seen just how powerful and perfect the life he could offer them was.

So he let them label him a villain; he let them hunt him. The stronger the beings they sent, the sooner they would understand his perfection. But they never did they never learned to comprehend his majesty.

Eventually he realized the truth. It wasn’t that they couldn’t understand perfection. Perfection cannot be misunderstood, its achievement must be self-evident. It was obvious that one being alone, even one as brilliant and uplifted as him, could never achieve perfection. So he looked for others like him, seeking the pieces that would make him perfect.

Panzer and Sherman. They were the first to defeat him, even if they had to work together, and they proved that his perfection was not complete. Even though they were enemies, they two had separately discovered a way to remove the recoil generated by even the most powerful of weapons. Once he discovered their secret, he tested it against their prototypes. Of course, his genius proved superior.

Month after month, year after year, he sought out those whose creations could rival his own genius. If they were worthy, he gave them a chance to join him in his ascension to godhood. Most refused, and those few who accepted his generosity proved too unstable, to set in their own greed, to serve with him in his position of ultimate power.

As he returned again and again, the people began to fear him, as they should. Their awe served only to prove that he was getting closer to his ultimate goal. Soon they would grow to respect his perfection, and everyone would wish to become as he is. But that time was not yet, his perfection was not complete.

Until then, he would accept this pathetic moniker. Its use would fade with time, as they grew to understand that their fear was only natural upon seeing a being so far above them. Until they understood he was a god, he would let them believe he was a monster.

He would be Frankenstein.

<<<Previous Chapter                                                                                     Next Chapter>>>

Advertisements

Chapter 57: The Curse of Frankenstein

The streets below them were danced with the lights of cars driving through the city. Even at night, the business district had few shadows.

“Will he come after you?” Burnout rubbed the side of his head. If his hair were longer he’d have been pushing it behind his ear.

“No. Frankenstein does not attack anyone whose work can’t improve him. Even if I’d made it on the news, I would be too low profile to target.”

Burnout stared intently at her mask, trying to read her hidden face. “Okay, but shouldn’t you stay off the streets? Just to be safe.”

Mach nodded. “I have some projects to work on in the meantime. My armor will be in pieces for a few days.”

She glanced off the side of the building. “I’ll be at the next meeting.”

Burnout’s response was drowned out by the sound of her lifting off.

She could see his forehead twitching, and she knew he did not completely believe her. But she would not argue about it. If Frankenstein found her, she needed to be ready.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Tina stared at the dismantled appliances all around her. She knew what she needed to make; the idea had been sitting in her head for weeks now, but no matter what she tried to take apart, the pieces would not come together. Her search had stopped being organized hours ago. Normally, she had an idea of what she would need to break down to get the parts for her current idea. But this time there was something missing, some tiny detail that she couldn’t grasp.

The only light filtered in the windows from the street lights outside. It had been dark for hours, but she had dismantled the ceiling fan for its motor before then, and its lights were somewhere out of her work zone.

A low buzzing echoed through the house. She had left the timer on the coffee machine on. That wasn’t right. It shouldn’t have started until the morning.

She glanced out the window to see the lights of dawn slowly breaking over the city.

Tina slowly stood up. Her back failed to straighten as she shuffled towards the kitchen. Her parents had left on vacation earlier in the day…yesterday, and the sound of her socked feet scraping against the carpet echoed in the empty house.

She slowly sipped a cup of coffee. She didn’t have to work today, but she couldn’t sleep. If she slept she might lose what pieces of the device she did have.  Starting over would mean hours more of staring at her work space, idly mulling over the parts sitting in front of her.

It was so much easier when she had had blueprints. The Panzer and Sherman suits were both outdated, but they had laid the foundations for most modern mechers. Their blueprints had set her half a decade ahead. Without something solid to base her ideas off of, she was just blindly forcing her way forward.

The fan motor couldn’t move fast enough on its own; she knew that much. She needed to build something new, but it was designed to move steadily with the fan blades balanced, so it had the right structure. The opening in the field also had to be generated with an opposite pule at precisely the right time, or the device would break. The timing could be done accurately enough with the crystal processor, so that wasn’t what was missing. Perhaps she needed something stronger for the pulse?

She looked around the room for possibilities. The microwave, the coffee machine, the television, none of them could give her the result she needed.

Maybe she needed to head out after all. She might find something in a specialty store she hadn’t thought of.

Tina’s half empty coffee mug sat on the table and she wandered out the door.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

A few people stared at her as she wandered down the street. Her baggy t-shirt and loose jeans didn’t exactly mesh with the crowd walking through the business district and the pair of slippers she had slipped on as she walked out the door did not help.

She trudged past the mirror-like windows of the office buildings. The noise of the crowded streets washed over her, creating a blanket of white noise that she embraced.

Someone paused and glanced a second time at her face. It was a customer from the shop, but he wouldn’t recognize her. After a minute he turned back and hurried to get back on schedule.

A car still occasionally passed by, a flash of color out of the corner of her eye. A single biker rode by on the opposite sight of the street. Its rider’s face was oddly clear against the windows behind him.

Tina paused briefly as the man rode by, staring at the spokes of the wheels. They were strobing backwards. Something in her brain started doing the math on how fast they must be spinning, but she immediately discarded the thought. Her brain was too full for that to bother her.

The cyclist passed by and she kept walking.

Her reflection walked alongside her. It copied her movements, taking steps just after she did. She heard her padded feet hitting the concrete twice. She heard her breaths after she took them. Her reflection was falling behind, so it sped up. But it didn’t stop when it caught up. It kept going, copying the movements she made before she ever made them. She tried to do differently than the reflection, but it never seemed to work. She knew the actions were coming before they happened, she felt herself losing control.

Her reflection reached the end of the block and vanished.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Tina paid the man at the register. He said something with worry in his eyes, but she waved it off and walked back out of the store.

She looked in the bag she carried with her. It had a box in there, but she couldn’t remember what she had bought. She knew she needed it thought.

The walk back seemed to take hours longer than the walk there. It was well past noon when she got home.

She heard her phone ringing upstairs and went to answer it.

It was her mother, she was saying something. She sounded concerned and frightened, but Tina made the sounds that would help her calm down and hung up the phone.

She pulled the box out of the bag and began to take the contents apart. It didn’t matter what they were, they were just pieces waiting to be put back together.

Her hands began to move without her. She worked until the sun’s last rays streamed through the window. She felt hungry, but she was more tired than anything else.

A shock of warning flashed through her brain and she forced herself downstairs.

She grabbed a meal bar and a glass of water and finished them both. She looked at the stairs and turned away.

Her face hit the couch, and the last bit of daylight hit her face as she closed her eyes.

<<<Previous Chapter                                                                                     Next Chapter>>>

Chapter 56: The Threat of Frankenstein

Tina stared at the bowl of cereal sitting in front of her. She had to get to work soon, but she could not find the energy today. Ever since the store had been repaired working there felt wrong. It seemed silly, but whenever she saw the new window she felt her stomach clenching. She had done all she could with what she had that night; she could not have prevented the break in no matter what she did, but it still felt like her fault.

Her parents had gone to work already. They would never know if she decided to stay home today. Even if they found out they would just shrug it off. They always thought she should be aiming for a better job than the coffee shop anyway.

But in the end, she liked where she worked. She liked being able to talk to Janet and Rachel while they bounced around behind the counter. She liked the smell of the coffee beans while they were grinding and the baked goods being brought to the counter. She even liked some of the customers. So she knew that in the end, she would stand up and go to work, guilt or no guilt.

So she slowly ate the rest of her cereal and locked up the house.

The shop was already busy when she walked in. That was a good thing, it would keep her mind off of everything else. She gave a quick greeting to Rachel and Janet and quickly threw on her apron before taking over the cash register.

The customers came quickly. There were a few she recognized, but the rush of the crowd meant she didn’t have a chance to talk before the line surged forward again. The orders blended together, mochas into cappuccinos into decafs into teas. The ringing of the cash register became so constant that it was starting to sound like a single long tone.

And then it was done. The crowd vanished, and her distraction was gone. Sara and Janet were talking about something behind her, but she could not find the energy to join their conversation.  So she wandered to the back for the broom and began to sweep up the store.

“-Tina.”

She jumped when she heard her name. She looked up and saw Rachel there, staring at her with slightly widened eyes.

“Are you okay, Tina? You look like you haven’t slept.”

She had not, she had been fiddling with gadgets all night and had completely lost track of time. But she could not say that.

“I am fine. I just had a restless night. I might not quite be awake, but it should pass soon”

Rachel reluctantly nodded and glanced back at Janet. Their boss stood there with her arms crossed and an eyebrow raised. Rachel turned back with a shaky smile.

“Her, have you been feeling all right lately? You haven’t really been yourself ever since the Asclepios attack.”

Tina flinched slightly.

“So that’s it? I didn’t know you were anywhere near the gas. Look, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but try to remember that we’re here if you need it. I know you’re parents probably aren’t the easiest to talk to about stuff like that. Just take your time with it, okay?”

Tina nodded mutely. Rachel smiled warmly and moved to Janet.

They started talking again, but the topic quickly turned away from her and Tina was able to sweep the floor in peace.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

There were only three of them at the meeting tonight. Will had apparently had to leave town a few days ago, and Hawthorne and Allspades apparently had some business of their own to take care of. They would be back before the next meeting, but until then they had a substitute.

A normal person might have scoffed at the idea of a substitute; it would feel like they were back in high school and were being forced to sit through somebody’s poor reading of the teacher’s notes. Of course, Mach had never actually gone to a traditional high school, so to her this was not anything special.

She heard Red Racer grumbling at the thought of a replacement, thought burnout seemed to be taking it well. Of course, Red seemed most disappointed when he heard that Slipstream would be conducting the meeting and not Zero. Apparently he had wanted to meet Zero ever since he became a runner himself.

Slipstream was doing an… adequate job she supposed. For the most part, when Will was trying to make a point he was rather dramatic about it. He liked taking them places and showing them new sites to accompany his lectures.

Slipstream, for as much as she respected her fellow mecher, was not doing a very good job. She couldn’t really blame him; Slipstream was one of the most successful heroes to date. He could retire from all activity tonight and still bring in enough money in a year to buy half the city. As many hardships as he had to have suffer, he couldn’t really be objective about this decision.

Of course, she had not been doing a good job of listening either. She was trying, at least at first, but his voice had quickly started droning into a slow buzzing. She was vaguely reminded of old Peanuts cartoons. A vague smirk wormed its way onto her face and she was suddenly glad for her mask.

Slipstream seemed to be finishing up.

“I hope that explains it a little better. Now, Will should be back by your next meeting. So make sure you keep in touch with your contacts.”

Red Racer and Burnout got up to leave, and Mach was about to do the same.

“Mach, stay here for a minute.”

Burnout turned to her, but she waved him on.  He nodded slowly and walked out with Red.

She turned back to Slipstream and their hidden eyes met.

He took a breath.

“Mach, Will told me that you built your armor based off of Panzer and Sherman, is that true?”

“Yes. I saw their blueprints at the museum.”

Slipstream nodded and started to pace back and forth.

“You realize that shouldn’t be possible right? Even the lowest mecher’s encode their blueprints to prevent that.”

Mach was only slightly surprised. She knew it was a common practice now, but when she saw their blueprints in the museum, she had assumed the old mechers hadn’t bothered with it.

Despite her mask, Slipstream seemed to know what she was thinking.

“Okay. Honestly, I want to test if you can do it with mine, but there really isn’t anything I’m allowed to show you. That’s not why I needed you to stay. There are…hints that Frankenstein is coming back.”

Mach’s eyes widened.

“You know what that means right?”

“He targets mechers. He steals what he can, and destroys everything else. However, he does not target anyone who had not proven themselves. I should not be a target.”

Slipstream nodded. “And normally you wouldn’t be. But right now, you’re wearing the armor of the two walkers who came closest to defeating him. He may not know about that, he may not come after you. But if he thinks you’re even slightly capable of improving him, he will come for you.”

Mach nodded. She was too shaken to say anything.

“If you want my advice, stay out of costume for the next few weeks. Go to work, go home, come to meetings. Avoid anything else if you can help it. Because he will find you when you are alone, when you can’t call for help. And whether you can help him or not, he will kill you.”

Slipstream seemed like he wanted to say something else, but he waited for her response.

“If he finds me, what do I do?”

Slipstream sighed. “Most likely? You’re screwed. And what I’m going to tell you will go against you’re every instinct. First, you should try to run and get somewhere you’ll be noticed so other heroes can help you. You need to deactivate your visor and any sensors you have, because he can and will hack them. If you don’t have an auto eject on your suit get one, at the very least you could try to blend into a crowd once you’re out of it. A few mechers, including me, will be keeping an eye out for him, so the most important thing you need to do is survive. If you can last until help gets there, then there’s a good chance he’ll just leave.”

Mach slowly nodded.

“I’ll give you this too.” He held out a small device; it looked slightly like a cap gun. “This will send up a signal flare. If only has two shots, so don’t waste it. It has a beacon that’ll signal me as soon as you send it up, and I’ll get there as fast as possible.”

She took it gratefully.

“Keep out of sight and keep safe. It’s the best move.”

“I will try.”

SIipstream nodded and walked over to the door.

Mach followed him. When they walked out of the room she saw Burnout standing to the side. He was wringing his hands, but he didn’t look as concerned as if he actually overheard them.

Slipstream took off behind her.

She nodded to Burnout and they both walked to a place more open for them to take off again. She could tell him later.

<<<Previous Chapter                                                                                     Next Chapter>>>

Chapter 55: The Eyes of Frankenstein

Mach felt herself lifted off her feet, carried by the fist of the metal giant and thrown into the building. Her armor was holding up, but it wouldn’t for much longer. Her normal visor had been all but destroyed long ago, and she was making do with the duraglass visor she’d kept beneath it. She heard people screaming in the building behind her; hopefully they were running for an exit on the other side of the building.

She forced herself to her feet, trying and failing to hold back a groan as her joints screamed at her to stay down.

“Pathetic. I expected more from you.”

The 9ft monster walked slowly towards her. Steam slowly escaped from the holes in its neck. It’s arms hung low, easily reaching its knees. When it spoke, the metal joints that had replaced his bones shifted unnaturally beneath tis skin, pulled along by a combination of muscle and wire.

“You have taken the armor of your betters and made it your own. You have stolen the designs of those I respect. You’re sad attempts at heroism are a mockery to their names.” He stopped moving. “I will give you one more chance to remove your armor and leave this life. If you refuse, I will be far less gentle in doing so.”

Mach tried to catch her breath while he spoke. Most of her weapons were useless against him. He had filled the space beneath his skin with a mesh stronger than any body armor, and what flowed through his veins could hardly be called blood. She didn’t even know what parts of him were still human enough for her to attack.

“You insist on refusing. Regrettable but expected. Please struggle, if you wish. If you refrain from fighting, I fear the lesson of your weakness will be lost on you.”

The massive monster moved with remarkable speed. It was as if the weight of the metals buried under his skin meant nothing to him.

Mach tried to move out of the way, but she knew she would be too slow. Her feet had barely left the ground when the fist slammed into her shoulder and sent her spiraling in a crude mockery of her intended path.

The various rockets throughout her suit switched on, trying valiantly to stabilize her erratic flight. She felt herself slowing, and finally she managed to hover above the ruined street. There were holes littering the building and street below for blocks, marking the crude path her fight had taken through the city.

“Flight. A silly dream yearned for by the young and foolish. But, alas, it would appear that to finish our fight I must take to the skies as well.”

There were no rockets in the monster’s skin. There were no jets, or propellers, or anything of the sort. But nonetheless, he began to rise. It was as his willpower had forced even gravity to surrender its grasp on his form.

Mach wanted to scream at the sight. Mechers were, inherently, capable of creating devices that science couldn’t yet explain. But every device invented should still rest firmly in the realm of science. This monster had been breaking every natural law she knew.

“What are you?” The monster’s ascent didn’t slow, but he locked eyes with the mecher above him. “Why are you so wrong?”

The monster smiled and vanished.

A loud warning blared in her ears, but Mach couldn’t react before the explosion hit her back and she was launched towards the ground.

The street wasn’t enough to stop her. She crashed through the asphalt and steel and into the maintenance tunnel below.

The few lights in the tunnel had been broken by the monster’s rampage above, so the only light came from the hole she had entered through. Only her right hand remained illuminated. She stared at the remains of her gatling gun; he had crushed it in the first minutes of their fight.

Her suit was all but useless now. What power remained could have moved the suit for hours in good condition, but it was nowhere near enough to force the crumpled joints back into alignment. She looked at her other arm, hidden in the darkness.

She had to swallow the bile rising in her throat.

The armored limb was twisted, bent into a shape that belonged in a child’s doodle. She absently wondered why she felt no pain. Then she screamed; a thousand knives and a thousand more bullets lodged themselves into her arm like millions of termites burying beneath her skin and gnawing on anything they could reach. She felt the blood pooling in her armor, slowing rising up the arm and slithering beneath her back.

The emergency escape tantalized her, but she knew that leaving her armor wouldn’t satiate the monster. Every other mecher he’d attacked had been killed, whether they’d surrendered or not. She didn’t have any illusions about her own hopes. She stared through the hole in the ceiling.

The monster took his time, sinking towards her from his vantage point high above the buildings. He knew she couldn’t run. Maybe he even planned it that way; the cruel molten gold eyes betrayed no thoughts or emotions.

“How did this happen?” She didn’t know if she said it out loud. A part of her thought she was still screaming. “Why are you after me?”

She thought she heard someone calling her name. But nobody could help her here. The monster above her was not any normal villain. It was a hunter, a predator that fed on the pain of those it thought lesser.

She was resigned to stare into those eyes. Waiting for the last breath she would ever take.

The eyes that promised her death, the same death he had given to the dozens of mechers he’d killed in the last few months.

The eyes that glowed that unnatural shade of molten gold.

The eyes that only knew hate and pain.

The Eyes of Frankentstein.

<<<Previous Chapter                                                                                     Next Chapter>>>