Gunship shuffles away from the menacing glare, interposing Wraith between the bad-tempered ugly and herself.
“I should be going on that scout,” Wraith announces.
“I’ll come with,” Gunship volunteers.
The two nerds fly off: discuss battle-suit minutiae for some while: realize they are virtually on top of their first target, the landing beach. But it takes a good 30 minutes scanning the undergrowth before they lock onto the original signal.
Wraith takes point: Gunship covers. He’s invisible and intangible – of course – but now she can track him and add firepower. Great! Reach out and touch faith… your own… personal… Gunship…. The paraphrased lyric is somehow right for filtering through sub-tropical undergrowth sneaking up on… a crab?
The crab is a robot: that’s obvious from its swiveling lens-casement. Otherwise, it’s a lot like a large tree-crab, edging back and forth along a branch. From here, it commands the loop road on both sides of the islet.
Wraith reaches out with his uncanny data-sense: the bot is emitting a simple “I’m here” monitoring signal. If interfered with, that could change to an alarm, an attack… or it might even unfurl a flag and stand to attention while playing Yankee Doodle: this is speculation, not data, Wraith reminds himself.
Time to report back!
1415 hours: Nightfall, part-concealed atop the wreckage of the dish, waves the pair in. Agent Sam, Skylark, and Dark Sorceress are resting on a makeshift groundsheet under shade, while much further back in deep shade that blocky uncouth lump of darkness must be Bad Tripp. Bad Tripp with a beer! He must have picked up Crab’s chilla-pak somewhere, thinks Wraith. Performer’s back from his own scouting: he’s enjoying the attention of the three women, standing at ease in the open, speaking with ease and grace. Smug, thinks Wraith again, then: Bastard.
“Heads up! We’re back to report!”
“It’s all bad over in the volcano of doom,” Performer returns, “evil magic, evil insects, all poisonous… and did I mention the evil? Giant economy-size!”
“It sounds… fascinating!” Dark Sorceress murmurs with a little shiver. Performer looks doubtfully at her: finds his gaze drawn inexorably down to her heroic cleavage: vertigo threatens. A small snort, as of a female thinking poorly of the male species, escapes Gunship:
“We found a crab-bot!” she exclaims. “On surveillance, in the trees!”
“Could there be more of them?” Sam Gerrard asks.
1430 hours: Wraith drifts over the islets forming the main isle as swiftly as practical, marking out where crab-bots can be detected. They cover the loop road, and cluster quite thickly round the old naval base and airstrip. There’s a couple of unfamiliar signals too, mixed in. He detects a few more as he drifts back up toward the dish site: there’s an abandoned villa compound – no! Not abandoned! A light screen of crab-bots and a few of the “other” signals. Interesting! Time to report.
1500 hours: Performer swoops across the trees to the villa: ghosts in. A short, chubby man, dark hair slicked back and receding, is taking his ease enjoying the view over the pool. Two servitor bots – rather like an industrial vacuum cleaner topped by a utility-heavy swivel casement – busy themselves tidying the rooms.
Performer drifts in to the naval base compound: Bill the cameraman is sitting in the sun beside his camera. He’s got it open but – lacking tools – seems to have dealt with the grieving process and have moved on to relaxing and enjoying the break. Nearby, the two cops are sitting in that cop-with-time-on-hands way. Amy’s inside: she’s trying to get her phone working. Performer smirks.
1530 hours: The allies – the remnants of Freedom City Massive and the Redemption Squad – ease slowly to within 100 feet or so of the villa compound on the uphill slope from it. It’s easy to see why at first glance Wraith assumed it to be abandoned: trees grow abundantly across an old access road up from the naval base and the villa walls are mossy, its roof thick-spread with leaf-mold. But the swimming pool out front is clear.
“Point me inta where dis mug is sittin’,” Bad Tripp rumbles, grinning in anticipation of mayhem. Performer obliges: the graffiti-stained Mohawk covers the distance in a bound, smashing through the roof and landing beside the shocked inhabitant: and in a swipe of his mighty arms bundles the wretch tight, immobilizing him!
“Wha – Who are you? Why are you here?”
“Ple – please don’t hurt me! I’ve got nothing to do with him!”
Hard on Tripp’s heels, Nightfall, Performer and Wraith arrive and the two servitors are taken apart: it seems they have been built not for defense but for domestic duties.
Bad Tripp, victim still pinioned helpless, bounds back out and with him, slouches into deep shade. Suspicious stains, as of broken leaking beer bottles, drip from the battered chilla-pak. It doesn’t improve his temper. Grabbing the man by the scruff of his neck, Tripp raises him high: the wretch, sweating, asks:
“Wha – Who are you? Why are you here?”
“I’M DE GUY AKSIN’ DE QUESTIONS! SEE?”
“Ple – please don’t hurt me! I’ve got nothing to do with him!”
“OH ’HIM’ HUH? AN’ I BETCHA NEVER HEARD ‘A DEMOLITION!”
Bad Tripp slams the little man face-first into the loam and rubs him into it, hard. He jerks his victim back up: the man’s left forearm folds back, and an impressive cannon muzzle aims at Tripp’s massive torso: before anyone can think to kick the weapon away or block the attack:
The blast and smoke clears: and Tripp, unscathed in spite of the massive impact, reaches down and snaps off the droid’s arm: for droid it is.
“How about that? It was a droid all along!” Nightfall exclaims.
“Amazing attention to detail: the thing looks and sounds like Peter Lorre. Sweats like him too,” Performer remarks.
“Can ya use it ta get any intel?” Bad Tripp asks Wraith.
“No, I think we had best be rid of it.”
Tripp picks the droid up and heaves his arm back: Wraith sends a massive overload into the droid’s circuits: Tripp throws with full force, and a flaming lump of fried circuitry sails out away from the island and out, out, over the ocean depths and is lost to sight. Tripp scratches his chest idly and rumbles darkly:
“Dey must be some reason dat droid was dere.”
1540 hours: Performer ghosts below the villa: there’s nothing under the pool, but there’s an elevator shaft beneath the villa’s lounge, leading down to a cell with five prisoners:
Mayor Moore, Lester Hillermann, Big Al, and two competent-looking men, one young and fit, the other middle-aged and hard. The latter two are working on the elevator doors: apart from those there’s a sealed hatch in one wall and a door to an en-suite toilet in another.
1545 hours: Buying time and creating a diversion, Performer and Dark Sorceress both depart their bodies and appear visibly near the naval compound:
“Amy! Amy Feng!”
Dark Sorceress is doing a Megan Fox impression, vamping Performer: she’s obviously enjoying herself and Performer goes with the flow! Amy’s granted a free interview by the happy pair, at which Dark Sorceress announces that she and Performer are officially an item!
1550 hours: Meanwhile, Wraith and Nightfall probe the villa interior looking for physical access to the prisoners. It takes a while: there’s a false wall. Wraith finds a few surveillance cameras and some booby-traps. He makes those safe, and does enough to speed the escape of the hostages so that it will appear they escaped on their own. But that still leaves the “freaks” as Bad Tripp calls them: Mr. Eddie, Ginger, and their own teammates.
1600 hours: Performer’s powers of rapid search while astral have eliminated the sat-dish station and he’s working his way through the naval base, when he’s shaken “awake” by Bad Tripp.
“We gotta call: lissen!”
It’s faint: but through the M-phones, Avenger’s voice sounds!
“Like I said: sometimes there’s only one way to find the secret lair and that’s getting captured! It took me a while to escape! I’m at the saddle… between the two islets… bots are after me….”
“Click twice if’n ya wants us ta come getcha!”
Two clicks sound in response!
1605 hours: Wasting no time on subtlety, Dark Sorceress lofts the team while Performer readies himself to use his own telekinesis in attack. Bad Tripp, Nightfall and Gunship crouch poised for action: it is on them that the bulk of offense must fall. Wraith stands cool and ready to drop away: against bots of any kind his weaponry is as deadly as any.
The decayed blacktop road is glimpsed through the tree-tops: Wraith drops away from Dark Sorceress’ field, easing into a good vantage near the top of a tree. He can see two mechas: oversize bipedal bots of the same model the team squelched up at the sat-dish. Then a third: behind his blank faceplate, Wraith grins like a maniac:
“Heh heh… this must be how Tripp feels when a fight starts!”
He reaches out, begins his data-link. Off to his left up the road Skylark takes up a defensive post with Agent Sam. Nightfall and Gunship leap down and Performer hovers lower. Bad Tripp leaps, smashes down by one mecha, grabs it, and flings it across the road at the second mecha!
Wraith’s first target fries satisfyingly and he turns his attention to the next, the third mecha. Across the road, Gunship exchanges fire with one of the mechas, neither scoring. Nightfall is knocked back through the air by the second mecha’s ‘pressor beam but flips in midair and lands unharmed: his boomerang rebounds off the third mecha with little to show for it. Dark Sorceress’ energy cage wraps round it, part-trapping it.
Skylark glances up in surprise: Avenger steps out of concealment to stand with her. Then more movement through the trees: three more mechas join the action! Avenger grimaces:
“You can see why I was keeping quiet!”
Bad Tripp and Nightfall team up on one of the new arrivals but it shrugs off their attacks: Tripp snarls:
“We’ll do better one-up! They’re easy ta tag! Give it ever’t’ing ya got!”
Two mechas pound over to join in: suddenly it’s three to two! Bad Tripp doesn’t look worried. Performer swoops over: casts his mystical snares around one of them. Nightfall clobbers it good and hard and it goes down. Bad Tripp steps away to give himself a run-up: runs through the second mecha, knocking it prone: smashes a massive paw into the third: grabs it in the same motion and wheels round, smashing that one against its prone companion! There’s an expensive-sounding crunch: head-casings and body armor shred off as both mechas crumble!
On the opposite flank, Wraith strips the circuitry from the fifth mecha: he can sense Calculus II trying to counter his hacks on this one, but way too slow this time!
Save for one damaged mecha trying to get to its foot-pods, the opposition has been dealt with. Then a mocking voice comes from the last mecha:
“Oh, yeah: datalink guy: well done!”
“I just live for your approval!” Wraith sneers.
“Yes, and so you should!” the voice responds. It’s hard to tell since none of the team have heard him one on one, but Wraith is guessing that this would have to be Calculus II!
“Well hey! I’ve got a deal for you all! And it’s a good deal!
“This is my offer: you get to leave. You collect up the civilians and the hostages that are free now. I’ll even release your buddies in the funny suits. Then you go.
“It’ll make great press: the heroes rescue the mayor and bring back the little guys too! So whaddaya say?”
Wraith nets in so that he can hear everyone and vice-versa: asks quietly:
“Agent Gerrard? What do you say?”
Sam shakes her head: even if this “voice” can guarantee her team will be released and allowed to leave safely there’s still the original goal of apprehending Demolition!
Wraith turns back to the mecha from which Calculus II spoke:
“Sorry, shit-stain, no deal!”
He overloads the robot’s systems without waiting for a reply: leaves it a shell spewing smoke and flames! He looks around: