Month: July 2015

Chapter 63: Residue

It wouldn’t stop.

The information flooded her mind from every direction. It rose above her thoughts and crashed through her senses. It flowed to every corner of her mind, drowning out her cries for mercy. She was being dragged down into the unexplored depths of the city’s history. Every street, every building, even clothing, it all had years, decades, even centuries of design and learning hidden beneath the surface.

She heard voices calling out to her from above the waves, but they could not pierce into the abyss. Somewhere behind them she heard screaming.

With her final gasps of self-awareness, she shut her eyes tight, but she couldn’t stop what she had already seen.

A thunderous voice rang through the abyss, and she knew no more.

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Outside the hospital room, a short empath tried to stay calm in front of the two heroes before him.

“She’s not a mecher,” Aidos spoke softly. “I thought it might be possible, but her true ability never conflicted with her mind as it does now.”

Slipstream raised an eyebrow. “She modified my tech in twenty minutes with one arm and a scrapped suit. You’ll have to do better than that.”

“Her mind is reaching out in ways only a tel can. But I can only see the edges of her mind; I don’t know what’s within.”

“How is she reaching out though?” Will asked. “Her room’s sealed by so much tech and magic that Maestro would have trouble getting through. She can’t be seeing the future, she got her armor from two dead walkers, so she can’t be reading minds. Is she looking into the past?”

“She shouldn’t be,” Slipstream said. “Every time slider I’ve met has said that going into the past takes twice the energy and will power as the future. They may be tels, but precogs and postcogs still put out enough rift radiation to set off the sensors in the room.”

“But you have tech to warn you if someone’s trying to read your mind. So she can’t have gotten it from you.”

The two continued to talk, but Aidos stared at the door to Mach’s room. Something about the way she reached out felt familiar to him. Most tel’s either reached out in a direct path, like a laser, or spread out in a sphere. Each had their own feel to it and their own way of entering the mind, but they all followed the same patterns. Her mind wasn’t targeting anything, it was just sort of scraping over the room around her.

“Locard.”

Will and Slipstream stopped talking. Together they turned towards Aidos.

“What?” Will asked.

“Locard’s theory. No two objects can have contact without leaving some trace on each other. He was talking about physical contact, but every once in a while I’ll come across an object with emotions…attached to it. I never brought it up with other tels, but if objects can hold onto emptions, maybe they can hold onto other things.”

Slipstream gave a little start. “She didn’t read their blueprints at all-“

“She just needed to see them for long enough for her power to pick up on the thoughts they had while they mad them,” Will finished.

“But she’s seen me before, it’s not like she could copy my thrusters with a glance.”

“So maybe it’s a little more than seeing, but…” Will looked at Mach sleeping on the other side of her door. “She’s unconscious. If it really takes effort, why hasn’t it stopped?” He looked to Aidos.

Aidos shrugged. “If her power was passive, I would have sensed it working before now. If it was active, it should have turned off the moment she passed out. Without knowing more about her power, or having a better tel look her over, I can’t tell you anything.”

“Then let’s get a better tel.” Burnout walked around the corner. “One of you has to know someone who can help her.”

Slipstream grimaced. “Maestro’s the only one I have regular contact with. He’s been looking into something over in Europe, and I have no idea when he’s getting back.”

“We don’t have long,” Will said. “A tel can only use their power for so long before they burn out.”

Burnout stared at Will with narrowed eyes. “You seem know everyone else ever met. You talked to Siegfried like he insulted your mother and you and Slipstream are comfortable bouncing ideas off each other. You have to know another tel.”

Will nodded. “But most of the ones I know aren’t any stronger than Aidos. The ones who are don’t like me very much.”

He glanced in the room again.

“But I can try. Most tels good at healing minds have a waiting list a few miles long, but most cases aren’t as urgent as this. A few might not help, but we only need one to say yes.”

Burnout glanced in at Mach. “I’ll be here when you get back. Hurry.”

“I’ll keep an eye on her too,” Aidos said. “If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

Will nodded. “Slip, you mind checking the Council records? There might be someone in there who can help.”

“Right. I’ll keep in touch.”

“And you all can stop hiding. You’re not fooling anyone.”

Around the corner, Hawthorne, Red Racer, and Allspades quickly ducked away.

Will smiled lightly and turned back to Burnout. “Can you make sure one of you makes Red go home? He took a hit tonight, and his sister’s not gonna be happy.”

Burnout didn’t turn from the door. “Right,” he said absently.

Will and Slipstream walked out of the hospital.

“Who are you getting in touch with?”

Will looked up at the sky. “I know a few local strollers. With any luck, one of them is actually in town right now.”

“And Plan B?”

“What makes you think I have a Plan B?”

“The scar on my back.”

Will looked back at Slipstream. “Worst case scenario? I call my father.”

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Chapter 62: The Bride of Frankenstein

The spear had been made almost two decades ago, buts its design and functions had been constantly improved ever since. Slipstream had made it early in his career in order to fight opponents from his original flying board. While the controls and power source were both in the shaft, the head held almost all of the weaponry. Nearly five years ago it had managed to pierce through Frankenstein’s hide. He had improved himself significantly since then.

Mach let the information fill her mind. She forced herself to focus only on the weapon; she couldn’t afford to let her mind wander like she had with the sculpture at home. The first thing she needed was a new power source.

“My backpack,” She croaked out. “And help me get my right arm out of my armor.”

“What are you doing?” Hawthorne asked. “We need to get out of here.”

“She’s right, the best mechers in the city are up there fighting him, we can’t do anything.”

Mach shook her head. “One of my weapons was shut down. His field couldn’t get to the power source. I can pierce his armor.”

Hawthorne and Burnout stared at each other. She was too weak to fight them if they wanted to drag her out of there.

There was a screech of metal and they looked at Mach between them. She was trying to force her arm to move in spite of the damage to her armor.

Burnout sighed. “How do we get your arm out?”

Hawthorne shot a glare at Burnout, but didn’t say anything.

“The lock is along my armpit. I cannot access its release. You’ll have to burn through it.”

“Mach, this is crazy! You can’t expect him to-”

Burnout pressed his hand where Mach instructed and a blue light began to shine from his palm.

“He can do it,” Mach said. “You’re almost there, I can feel it loosening.”

There was a loud pop and the armor started to slide off of Mach’s arm.

Burnout and Hawthorne lowered Mach’s arm to let the armor fall off and onto the floor.

Mach fumbled around near the small of her back until she found a small hole she could grab onto. She gave it a quick yank and a series of pops sounded from around her armor.

“Emergency eject. Never expected to lose both arms before I could get to it. I need to get to the back plate.”

This turned out to be more complicated than it sounded. The chest and back plates were both locked in by their connections to the rest of the armor. They managed to get the legs off easily, but the broken arm couldn’t be extracted normally.

Burnout stared at the mangled wreckage of her arm. “I can’t burn this one off, Mach.”

“We need to get you to a hospital,” Hawthorne said. “They’ll be able to cut it off without hurting you.”

Mach stared at her arm. She had been forcing herself to ignore it, but whatever had been numbing the pain was not working anymore She fought the urge to scream.

She spoke haltingly. “Not…whole…arm. The latch…is wedged. Force it open.”

“Mach-” Hawthorne started.

“Please. I can’t…do it alone.”

Burnout held up his hand and a blue flame appeared around it.

“No.” Hawthorne willed a seed from her vest. “Let me.”

She placed the seed near Mach’s shoulder. A small sprout grew from it and forced its way into the creases of the armor. Hawthorne gently flexed her fingers and it began to pull the armor on her arm up and away from the shoulder.

Mach quickly yanked the chest piece and it slid out from the shoulder.

Burnout helped her get the back plate out from under her and set it and her backpack in front of her. Her helmet and arm were the only pieces of armor she had left.

Hawthorne said something, but Mach’s mind was already focused.

She pulled an oddly shaped tool out of the backpack and began to work at the back plate. The power source was buried under several layers of metal and circuitry on both sides of the armor. But the access panel was easy enough to remove. She clumsily lifted it out of the armor and slipped the glowing disc out of the armor.

It was undamaged. Frankenstein’s field shouldn’t affect a power source this big, but he could have improved it in the time he was silent.

Another loud crash rang out above them. The fighting was still close.

Mach grabbed the spearhead and let the information flow again.

Slipstream built the spear when he was still living- Irrelevant.

The first person the spear was used on was R-Skip.

The spears piercing ability is controlled by adjusting the power output between lines-There.

Mach began to pull on the necessary wires. The head’s secondary battery could hold the charge for the time she needed, but it would take a few minutes to charge once it was connected.

She reached into her back pack and pulled out the rail gun. The chamber was too small to fit the spear head, but if she placed the shaft in the barrel, the projectile should be able to launch it along the path she chose.

The spear’s shell was reinforced with alloys she’d never heard of, but her power made it clear it could survive the launch, if not the impact.

She would only have one shot.

The others’ voices began to filter back in.

“She’s been like this for twenty minutes. We can’t wait any longer,” Hawthorne said.

“It is finished.”

Their heads jerked toward Mach.

She twisted a few of the wires together and slipped the spear head into the gun barrel. Air began to swirl around the cave as it was drawn into the weapon. The spear began to glow a bright blue.

“Mach, what did you-” Burnout started.

“It will pierce his skin. But firing is an issue. My armor was meant to absorb the recoil.” As she spoke, Mach began to load one of the two rounds she had left into the rail gun’s barrel. She flipped the switch and felt the rotation of the round start. “Hawthorne, could you manipulate my discarded arm and pull the trigger. If we brace it against the ground, your plants should be able to hold the aim steady.”

Hawthorne nodded and scattered some seeds on the armor. They began to grow into and around it, lifting it until it was aimed at the sky above.

“How will we know where he is?” she asked.

Mach pulled a small round device from her pack. “He thinks I am dead. I will prove him wrong.”

She drew her arm back and threw the orb at the hole above them. “Cover your eyes.”

Almost too late, the three shut their eyes against the bright light. There was a pause in the crashes from above.

Mach adjusted the fingers of the arm to grip the weapon. “You will have to aim quickly. He will not hesitate once he sees the weapon.”

The crashes resumed, more fervently than before. And they were getting closer.

“This isn’t a very good plan,” Burnout said.

“You’re the one who helped get the first arm out. We could’ve just carried her away from all this.”

Another loud crash, and two figures were thrown over the hole. The arm quickly swiveled towards their origin.

“He’s here.”

The giant’s shadow blocked out the sky above them. The arm pulled the trigger.

A blue and white streak emerged from the gun’s barrel and shot into Frankenstein’s shoulder. A loud roar echoed through the tunnels.

Frankenstein laughed.

His right arm fell to the ground at their feet, leaking a clear fluid.

They looked up at him. It was as if someone had scooped out his flesh from the edge of his neck to the bottom of his rib cage. A perfectly smooth curve remained.

And still he laughed.

One of the mechers that had been thrown over the hole earlier appeared, swinging something at Frankenstein’s wound. But the monster swung his remaining arm and batted him away.

He stopped laughing. Instead he just smiled down at the trio below him.

“Well done.”

And then he vanished.

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Chapter 61: Storming Castle Frankenstein

Mach watched as color drained from the world, touched only by red on the edges of her vision.

Mach watched as the giant slowly floated towards her.

Mach watched her one usable arm try to reach her backpack for the only weapon she might have left.

Mach watched as Frankenstein lifted his arm and pointed all five fingers at her.

Mach closed her eyes.

Half a block away, Burnout watched as Frankenstein fired into the hole.

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The flames propelling Burnout grew brighter and louder and he blasted towards Frankenstein.

Hawthorne and Allspades were right behind him, each charging as fast as they could down the street.

Red Racer was faster.

Hawthorne shouted after him, but the sound wouldn’t reach him until he was too far gone.

Like most runners, Red’s power had a built in failsafe to prevent him from hurting himself if he ran into a wall. Unlike most runners, Red’s safeguard didn’t necessarily protect anyone he ran into.

Frankenstein had been hit by things going much faster and people much larger and stronger than Red. He’d stood up from all of them, and most never got a second chance to knock him down. If almost any situation, nothing the size and speed of Red could possibly harm him.

The few times Red had been in an actual fight, he’d been doing his best to trip up his opponents. At worst, he’d throw a few punches, and his opponents would end up flying away before he actually connected. Red didn’t quite understand what happened, all he knew was that he could hit somebody without hurting them. But he also understood that he didn’t have to.

A good hundred feet from Frankenstein, Red left the ground. But even without purchase, he kept accelerating.

Frankenstein turned towards the threat, but before he could register the approaching hero, Red Racer hit him shoulder first.

Even as far as they were, Hawthorne and the others felt the vertigo she had come to associate with Red’s powers. They all felt themselves being pulled towards the two in the distance.

Frankenstein’s internal engines fired to life, trying to counter the impact of Red Racer’s small frame.

Then the wave hit. The miniscule space still between the two was filled with an onrush of energy and force. Warnings appeared before Frankenstein’s eyes, but before he could comprehend their presence, every engine working against Red Racer was simultaneously overloaded and he was launched away from Red and straight into the building he had thrown Mach into just minutes before.

Red was shot backwards, at a much slower speed, towards the ground. He felt a drain on his body that his powers had never caused before. He felt his eyes closing, like someone was gently massaging them closed. Just before he hit the ground, he slowed down dramatically, as is someone had caught him, and he was gently set on the ground.

The others ran straight for his down body.

Hawthorne slid to a stop next to him.

A light sigh escaped her chest. “He’s fine. Allspades, can you get him somewhere safe? We don’t know how long-“

A low rumbling came from the building.

Allspades quickly tossed Red Racer on his shoulder and leapt down the block.

Burnout and Hawthorne turned towards the second hole in the building.

Burnout looked sideways at Hawthorne. “We need to make sure. Once they get here the whole neighborhood’s gonna be a warzone.”

Hawthorne nodded and the two darted towards the now much larger hole in the street. She dropped a few seeds near its edge and thick vines began to grow along and down the hole.

Burnout hopped down while she worked and sent small balls of fire dancing along the tunnel below.

Hawthorne slid down a vine next to him. “Even if he missed, she can’t be far. Let’s split up.”

A primal roar rang out from the streets above.

The two turned their backs on each other and slowly began to work their way through the tunnel. The rubble had been thrown everywhere by the blast, and it lay in piles all along the path.

Burnout carefully inspected each pile of rubble, looking for the barest glint of metal, or a hint of blood.

Above them, a gust of sound resounded through the street and air began rushing into the tunnels.

“Slipstream’s here!” He shouted towards Hawthorne. “We have to move fast!”

He didn’t hear her respond, but she knew what they were getting into.

He moved faster, bouncing from one pile of rubble to the next, praying that he would find even the barest hint of her presence

“Burnout!”

He heard a shout from behind him, barely audible over the rushing winds. He quickly turned and saw Hawthorne and waving her arms.

She cupped her hands to her mouth and shouted again, but he couldn’t hear anything.

Jets of flame sprouted from his back and feet and he flew towards her.

She saw him coming and turned towards a rubble pile. She began to toss the rocks and debris away from the pile, revealing the cracked faceplate of their friend.

He landed by the two and quickly began to help uncover Mach’s body.

“Is she?”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell if she’s breathing through the suit.” Hawthorne spoke quickly and forcefully.

The two lifted her out of the rubble, both doing their best to ignore the sight of her twisted and bent arm.

They moved her towards the hole when the wind stopped.

“That’s a good thing, right?” Burnout managed to force out.

A small figure fell into the hole in front of them, followed by the broken pieces of a spear.

They felt Mach stirring between the two of them.

She opened her eyes slowly, feeling herself being carried away from where she had landed.

Her vision was blurry, but she could see Burnout and Hawthorne staring at something on the ground in front of them.

She tried to focus on it, and as her vision became crisper, she gasped.

“Is that-?”

Slipstream wasn’t out for the count yet, but he was obviously having trouble getting back to his feet.  A low rumbling from above told them that the fight was still going. He glanced at the broken pieces of his spear and they heard him grumbling a curse beneath his breath.

The engines dotting his outfit began to shift around; some dropped off completely and others rearranged themselves until they were more or less even spread around his body once again.

Without even glancing in their direction, Slipstream flew out of the hole and back into the fight.

Hawthorne stared at the hole in the ceiling. “Should we risk it or should we stay down here?”

Behind them the street above shook violently.

Hawthorne and Burnout quickly dragged her towards the hole. Most of Hawthorne’s vines had been knocked loose or cut down, but there were enough left for her and Mach to get a lift out onto the streets above.

Neither of them noticed Mach staring at the spear and engines dotting the ground where Slipstream had left them.

Information began to flood Mach’s brain.

“Wait.”

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Chapter 60: The Arrival of Frankenstein

He watched the figure fly away from him. The armored child would regain her bearings long before he reached him, but without the flare gun he had had on her belt, he would be unable to contact anyone before he could get help.

Frankenstein dropped the flare gun on the ground and slowly crushed it underfoot.

In what was left of his emotions he felt a stirring of anger. He normally would not have bothered with this child. And the power readings he received from the armor was far from the level of anyone worth his attention. But the comparison analysis revealed something far more interesting than the power readings. The visual analysis was meaningless; young mechers almost always based their armor off of an older hero. But the circuitry was unmistakable, no matter how much he had altered it. This child, this fool, had stolen the work of her betters. Worse than that, he could not even take it to half the level that it deserved. He would pay for this insult.

He took a short step and launched himself towards the other mecher.

The world around him vanished into streaks of color. Somewhere in his body the images were being scanned for possible targets, but none of them would be of interest yet. This child may not deserve his attention, but the insult of his armor deserved to be removed permanently.

A notice appeared before his eyes. The child was fleeing. He had installed manual controls for flight, clever, but it would only delay the inevitable. He doubted most of her weapons had survived contact with his field, and any that had wouldn’t be able to pierce his skin.

He stopped at the crater. The armor had the strength of its origins if it could survive this well enough to fly. A reflective surface drew his attention and he held out a hand to draw it to him.

It was a broken visor; most likely the child had been informed of his habits and discarded its remains after crashing. It was a shame, but removing the sensors was almost as valuable as controlling them.

He closed his fist on the useless device until it shattered. The child was slowing down. He believed himself safer in the city. He was sorely mistaken.

For the first time in many years, he allowed his legs to operate at their true power.

The ground exploded beneath him and he slammed his fist into the armored child’s back. He was almost disappointed at the ease with which he was thrown deeper into the city.

Frankenstein took his time catching up, but the boy was only just making his way to his feet when he arrived. A slot opened up on the armor and a small weapon appeared. This child’s armor seemed slightly more resistant to his normal techniques than most, but it was irrelevant. He slowed to a walking pace as the child’s weapon fired rapidly. The darts bounced harmlessly off his skin.

To the boy’s credit, he didn’t let up as he approached. It was still foolish, but at least the boy was brave enough to stand at fight. Frankenstein reached out and gripped the weapon. Its spinning stopped and he quickly crushed the weapon. The boy quickly jerked his arm away before it joined the weapon’s fate.

It gave a satisfying crunch as he was tossed by the blow and thrown into the building behind him.

Frankenstein looked at his surroundings. The child had managed to travel impressively far in the short amount of time since the landing. It was nowhere near his perfection but impressive nonetheless.

He watched him struggling to his feet. The child’s armor would fail soon. A small display appeared in his eyes and the armor’s stress points made themselves known to him.

“Pathetic. I expected more from you.”

A true mecher could climb into another’s armor and use it at near capacity within moments. This one had obviously been wearing his armor for months and by all appearance could barely move it at all.

The exhausts at his neck allowed steam to escape; using his muscles at full capacity had generated more backlash than they should have. He slowly approached the downed mecher.

“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 walking. “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.”

The mecher stood before him in defiance. He could see the eyes moving beneath his…her armor. She was thinking, trying to find a way to fight or escape. Both were useless; only a few mechers had ever managed to shield themselves from his attacks. Most of those were dead, the last had relied on another’s powers to achieve the affect.

“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.”

Frankenstein shot himself towards her. The girl would try to dodge of course, but her inability would just inform her of how superior he was.

Her feet had barely left the ground when his fist slammed into her shoulder. She spiraled away from him, and he watched as her flight system attempted to correct her course. She managed to achieve stability slightly quicker than he estimated. She stared at the destruction around him. He could see the fear in her eyes at the destruction his path through the city had caused. She stayed hovering above him. A lesser being would have sighed. She could have run or fought, but attempting to buy time by flying overhead was incredibly formulaic. Did she honestly think he could not chase her there?

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

At a thought, hundreds of tiny engines beneath his skin sunk into place and gravity’s hold on him was removed. With the lightest gusts of air, he floated off the ground. Even gravity obeyed the whims of a perfect being.

“What are you?” The girl shouted. “Why are you so wrong?” He didn’t deign her ignorance with a response. Anyone who accused his perfections of being wrong did not have the capacity to understand the truth. And so he remained silent and smiled at her foolishness.

He ran a surge of power through his circuitry and moved behind her. To her, it may seem as if he simply vanished.

He decided to show her a small sample of his power. He held out a single finger and a small slot opened up. A small explosive shot out of his finger and hit her in the back.

He watched her rapidly fly towards the ground and crash through the street.

The dust slowly flitted around the hole in the street. He waited as it cleared, but a scream of pain rose from its depths.

He slowly lowered himself until he could see her through the hole in the ground.

He could hear her muttering something under her breath, but did not care to enhance the words.

He met her eyes under her armor. They were filled with fear.

The lesson was learned.

He lifted his arm and all five fingers revealed the slots beneath.

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Chapter 59: Frankenstein’s Monster

She woke up.

The sunlight streaming in through the window hit the glass figure on the coffee table and sent dozens of rainbow figures dancing across the ceiling.

A rush of information swirled into Tina’s head: the sculpture was made by a 32 year old male 15 years ago in an art class held in a college basement in Northern Arkansas. It was made with a combination of hot sculpting and cold working to set the series of simple shapes on top of the star-like base. It was the first and last sculpture the artist ever sold and he committed suicide two years later after the bank foreclosed on his house.

She woke up.

Her eyes widened and she was panting rapidly. She held a hand to her chest, feeling the rapid, shallow movements of her lungs and her pulsing heart.

She stared at the sculpture again. The composition of the piece began to unfold before her. There was no more information about the artist.

She closed her eyes and forced herself to take a deep breath. The thoughts racing through her mind stopped.

“It was a dream. It was only a dream,” she croaked.

She collapsed backwards onto the couch. Immediately the exhaustion of the last three days returned and she groaned. The clock on the wall told her she had slept five hours. Most days that would have been enough, but after days without, she felt herself sinking back into slumber.

A loud roar came from her stomach and she snapped awake.

She realized that her throat had started burning ever since she spoke and she forced herself to stand up. Tina stumbled her was into the kitchen and turned on the sink. She cupped the water in her hand and slowly sipped it, letting it soak into her mouth and throat.

Finally she took a deep gulp and felt the water land in her empty stomach. She felt her stomach lurch in reaction. She would have sworn she’d drank some water before she slept. She searched the cabinets and pulled out a jar of peanut butter and a spoon.

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She stared at the completed gadget on her work station. It looked complete, and she didn’t feel the need to work on it anymore. But she would never really be sure until she tested it.

Of course, that meant actually leaving the house and finding somewhere out of the city where she could fire it off without hurting someone or destroying something. Or both. Most likely both.

She didn’t know why she made it, honestly. It was the kind of gadget she didn’t even want to have to use as a last resort. But a few days before she’d heard about Frankenstein, the idea had wedged its way into her brain and she hadn’t been able to ignore it since.

She looked over at her suit, resting in pieces in her closet. She had actually planned on staying in until Frankenstein quieted down again, but even Slipstream had admitted the only reason she even might be of interest to him was her armor. He shouldn’t even know that she existed, and even then her armor was based of decades old tech. Frankenstein would never bother coming after her.

She quickly put on her armor, making sure to grab the flare gun Slipstream had given her, and placed her new toy inside of her backpack. She had to remove some of her nonessential gadgets to make it fit. She would need to create a proper harness for it if the field test worked out.

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The trip outside of the city was uneventful. Seeing a hero fly overhead wasn’t necessarily an everyday occurrence, even in Macropolis, but nobody looked twice when one did.

Mach landed in an empty field. The only landmarks were the craters left behind by an alien invasion a decade earlier. The Council had forced them down in an empty farm field, and Beck Industries had bought the field in order to safely sweep for any dangerous technology that had been left behind. After that, they kept it undeveloped to use as a weapons testing ground. They technically never invited the local mechers to use it for their own tests, but they had never complained about it either.

Mach reached into her backpack and pulled out her new gadget. She had only made three rounds for it, each one had a slightly different composition. A major part of testing would be deciding which was the most effective. Of course she might make more of all three, depending on the results.

She loaded one round into the circular chamber and flipped the first switch. The machine whirred to life and she felt the round as it slowly began to move through the chamber. Each time it passed closest to her grip she felt the gadget as a whole jerk away from her hand. She kept a tight grip and the jerks happened more and more quickly, until it felt like somebody had grabbed the barrel of the gadget and was steadily pulling it away from her.

She held it at arm’s length, pointed down towards the ground ten feet away, and locked the suit’s arm movements to protect her arm from the recoil. She took a deep breath. Technically, the moment she pulled the trigger, the device could explode and what was left of her arm could end up crashing through her own window. It was also possible that the timing was off and the round would end up going through her own torso.

She pulled the trigger.

The gadget didn’t make any noticeable sound, though she felt the suits arm being driven back. Of course, whatever sound it would have made would have been completely lost amongst the sound of the round slamming into the earth, drilling a perfectly round hole deep into the ground.

She felt the device winding down and released the lock on her arm. The noise from the hole hadn’t stopped, but all she could hear now were the echoes from the round’s final movements. She let her suit tell her how deep it was and started to do the math in her head.

She paused.

She did the math again.

The round had travelled almost 500 meters straight through the dirt and limestone. Technically, the device could be considered a railgun, an extremely inefficient and compact railgun that used a circular chamber to build up the rounds speed. A proper railgun, like the one used in the Orbital Defense Satellites, could fire between Mach 25 and 30. She had expected this one to move at Mach 5 at the most.

It had fired the small round at Mach 15.

She wanted to test another round when the communicator she’d hooked up to her suit began blinking.

“Mach, where are you? The meeting was supposed to start 5 minutes ago, and everyone else made it back.” Burnout’s voice filtered into her helmet.

Mach’s head tilted. “I was under the impression the meeting would not be until Thursday.”

“Mach it is Thursday. What day do you think it is?”

Mach didn’t respond. She tried to count the days in her head, but the days she was working on the project kept blurring together.

“Mach? Are you there?”

She shook her head clear of the thoughts. “I can be there in ten minutes. Please tell Mr. Writer that he can start without me if he desires.”

Before he could answer, she quickly cut the communicator.

She took another look at the soda can sized hole in the ground before moving to store her new device in her backpack.

A loud thump came from the west.

She slowly turned towards the sound.

A lone figure rapidly moved towards her.

She turned to run, but he was too fast. Frankenstein slammed into her back and she was launched towards the city.

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