Part 20: Architect: Out of Place - Part TwoPreviously on City of Heroes:
Longbow had called me in to help Dr. Aeon, the premiere mad scientist of Arachnos, investigate the long-running "Ghostmarch" festival. Built around the presence of harmless ghostly figures, the festival was a long standing tradition for the Steel Canyon arts community. However, after some analysis by Dr. Aeon, the ghosts suddenly materialized and began attacking the festival-goers. While saving the festival I met up with a young heroine named Neutrina, who was able to help fight off the ghosts with her ability to manipulate subatomic particles. After clearing out the festival I returned to Dr. Aeon, who had this to say:
Out of Place
"Oh, what a time to be alive and brilliant! Just imagine! A perpendicular dimension: a universe at a complete right angle to everything we know, that only intersects with our universe at ONE time, ONE locus, EVER! We might even be able to travel to that universe for as long as this crossing lasts, but the release of energy would be--
"Would you shut up for and second and listen?! What the hell do you mean 'We're all going to die?!'"
"Ah. Yes, of course. The "We're all going to die" thing. Yes, yes, stop yelling, I was getting to that. Well, let me start out slow and I'll fill you in as we go along. This perpendicular dimension is made of completely different... "stuff" than our own universe. I can't even say "atoms" for certain, it's that different from our own frame of reference! The trouble is... when the fundamental particles of two incompatible systems of physics collide, the result, as we have seen, is a release of energy: what our limited minds only perceive as an "attack". Interesting, no?"
"I met a heroine back at the festival who had powers that might help with this. I think we should go after her, just in case."
"Oh. You're going to go check on that one heroine and her scruffy little 'artist' friends? Why-?"
"Well, she sensed the ghosts moving into our dimension, and her powers deal with rearranging subatomic particles. I was thinking you could figure out a way to maybe use her powers to stop this."
"Hmm, yes, I can see how that would be useful. But here I am without the proper vivisection tools--"
"Oh, come now, I thought I was pretty obviously joking there. Occam's BEARD, you're so easy to tweak!"
"Look, let's just find Neutrina. You're not leaving my sight until we get everything sorted out."
*sigh* "You're really going to drag me into this, aren't you? Well, I'm certainly not complaining, but I could have done a lot more good if some AUSTRALOPITHECINE hadn't stolen my Pocket Non-Baryonic Matter Deconvoluter. Just saying."
I called up Neutrina, who quickly explained before closing the line:
"I got a signal from Da... I mean, an ally in the area. I had heard there was something bad going down, but I had no idea! We need to put an end to this. My... allies are hiding in the workshop at 93 Current Street. I need to check on them: meet me there?"
Arriving at the warehouse, Aeon ran in past me, finding himself immediately surrounded by ghosts.
"Doc, what are you doing?! Get back here!"
Before I could move, Aeon shouted,
"Back off, creatures, I am a SCIENTIST!"
before being engulfed in a familiar looking explosion of light.
The ghosts vanished in the same manner they did when exposed to my own energy: fading back into nonexistence on contact.
Afterwards, he turned to me and said:
"Sorry! I tend to get a bit ahead of myself. Aheh. Private joke."
"What the hell was that?! How did you do that?!"
He explained that before Longbow had stopped him from getting anything else from the Architect Entertainment's systems he had managed to slip in some kind of "device" that mimicked Peacebringer energies. He had noted that my blasts had a different type of effect on the ghosts, forcing them to vanish on contact immediately rather than requiring a large amount of force. Something about dimensional anchors and how Kheldians don't seem to exist in many other dimensions for one reason or the other. Unfortunately, according to his theories the same energy didn't work on a larger scale, leaving us back where we started.
Moving further into the warehouse, I heard a familiar voice shout:
"Leave my friends alone! Or I'll-- uh, I have no idea what I'll do, actually."
Heading towards the voice, I saw one of the tour guides from the festival cowering by a ghost.
I shoved aside the ghost with a quick blast and immediately told him to find safety outside of the warehouse.
Before heading back on the path we had cleared, he shouted:
"Make sure Daph gets out, all right? And keep that beardy guy away from Trina!"
Aeon seemed to take offense to the guide's claims of lecherousness but I couldn't help but chuckle otherwise, even in such dire times.
Further on within the warehouse was another tour guide, who was less frightened of the ghosts:
She seemed more passive with them, saying things like:
"Incredible. You're trying to communicate, aren't you?"
Unfortunately, I couldn't let her be in harm's way so I cleared them out. She seemed slightly angered that I had done so, but nevertheless questioned:
"Peacebringer J, do you know what's going on?"
"Well, pretty much your ghost friends are showing up everywhere and trying to kill everybody."
"I think-- I think this may be a misunderstanding. Sort of. I can't explain it, really, especially considering I can barely even figure out what they are. But I don't think they mean to hurt us; they probably barely even see us as well."
"The Doc was saying something like that earlier. Either way, that's for later- you have to get out of here now. It's not safe.
As she turned to head to safety, she looked at me worryingly and asked:
"Things will work out, right? Tell me they'll work out."
I looked back and nodded, saying:
"They will. No matter what it takes, we heroes always save the day."
Unforunately, the same couldn't be said for Neutrina. She had apparently "surrendered" to the ghosts, who were actively threatening her. The ghosts near her had a presence that the others lacked, feeling less like voids and more like.. people.
"Ohh, this isn't good."
I interrupted their threats with a quick blast to the closest ghost, causing it's companions to recoil and fade away at the exposure of the light from my blast.
Seeing that she was free, Neutrina thanked me:
"Peacebringer J, I'm so glad you're here! These things just overwhelmed me somehow."
"No problem. Are you okay? Your friends are waiting for you somewhere outside if you're not able to help."
"I'm a little winded, but I think I'm all right. Those things are having a weird effect on me just by being there. I feel like I'm... being pulled to them, a little. And drained. But don't worry, I'm in this to win: the city is counting on us!"
Feeling left out of the conversation, Dr. Aeon interrupted with one of his rants:
"All right, good good, we have our living subatomic particle detector. So, as you may have picked up from all that kerfuffle, those entities are just as baffled by US as you are by THEM. A dimension so completely orthogonal to our own has its own energy, its own particles, its own matter; and the beings emerging out of such a system would have such alien ways that we couldn't understand them even if we were oriented properly in their space -- it's even WORSE when our dimensions are still angled differently!"
"Neutrina, this is Dr. Thaddeus Aeon ASQA, resident mad scientist. He's pretty much the only guy who really knows what's going on at the moment, so we're stuck with him."
She nodded and let him continue, curious at the info being presented:
"Confused yet? Let me just simplify: They could be waving "hello", but we would see it as "skyscraper (mother died 15 years ago) flibbydib", and in the end all we get are blasts of ultraperceptual energy right in both our faces. Tragic, no? Anyway, lucky for YOU, the problem basically boils down to punching those pesky laws of alternate-physics right in the face. Well... at least for the moment."
I shrugged and nodded with Neutrina as we headed towards the exit of the warehouse while he continued ranting.
While heading back to our makeshift headquarters at the AE building in the midst of the utter bedlam caused by the ghosts, Dr. Aeon's rant came to an abrupt end with a statement that shocked me more than anything else he had said thus far:
"Do you know, Peacebringer J, I just realized. We're having an honest-to-goodness team-up, aren't we?"