Part 41: Brickstown - minimalistPART TWO (Final)
I'd saved the Praetorian survivors from a Devouring Earth incursion underneath (the somewhat insensitively-renamed) Refugee Island. The last thing those poor fellas needed was a reminder that the struggle with Hamidon isn't behind them. Well, second to last. Dead last would be to have their flesh devoured and reforged as mindless rampaging tentacle-things.
But one thing still tugs at the corner of my brain:
"You know that human beings had to have brought in those containers of weird green stuff, right?"
Okay, sounds good. I trust Marchand's instincts. You can't survive as long as this guy has -- and believe me, he's even older than he looks -- without at least some skill at judging people. Can't be too careful about picking your friends when all someone has to do is pull the plug on that armor that's keeping you alive for decades past your time.
I didn't have much to do with the Big Dogs, but I do know that one of them used to call him "Mobile Suit Iron-Lungdam." You'll never guess who (it was Reese).
Predictably, we get to the lab where my old contact Parson is working, and it's been invaded by Arachnos. Anyone could have told you that would happen.
So far, we've got a nice little team assembled from the super-powered refugees of Praetorian Earth. From left to right, you see:
Grant Creston, an ex-Imperial Defense Forces soldier who saw too much brutality in the ranks and joined the Resistance, primarily as a trainer and organizer in First Ward.
Aurora Pena, a psychic with the ability to generate some light-based blasts as well. For a long time, she'd played unwilling host to Mother Mayhem's malignant mind. Calvin Scott, ex-political prisoner and subsequent leader of the Resistance, was determined to free her or burn the world down trying. Well, he freed her, but it turns out they were never married. And Cole got to burn down the world instead. So what's a thoroughly broken PTSD torture victim to do? We, uh, kinda lost track of him in the chaos of the evac. Never mind.
Pendragon, who may or may not be the counterpart of our Hero-1, only not so Rikti.
Not a bad little team, and I know they can all be trusted.
"Desdemona cleansed me of my evil back in Night Ward. However, I still feel something odd, as if it isn't quite gone."
The fuck you say. This is a hell of a time to bring it up.
Well, okay, at least you had the courtesy to mention it at all. In fact, the whole team is rather chatty, bringing up little tidbits here and there. While fighting Arachnos troops, we reminisce about the old dimension a bit.
I'm sure it has. For my part, though, I've seen pretty much everything Arachnos has to offer and I'm not impressed.
'Kay. That's new. Still not impressive, though; I've trashed a lot of those things, even "Incarnate-powered" ones (whatever that means).
The rest of the Arachnos troops seem just as chatty as my teammates, and they drop some interesting tidbits on occasion.
Anyway, it's time we freed some Longbow scientists. Among them, there's this guy, who strikes me as a bit odd.
THE FUCK DID YOU SAY.
Okay, never mind. We save the brony scientist, but Parson is unfortunately nowhere to be found. Luckily, I'm an expert detective so I know what to do. I follow the obvious smoldering trail of senseless violence through the streets of Brickstown.
I bail out some cops along the way.
The trail leads to the sewers under the streets, of course. There's another surprise waiting for us there.
Looks like Arachnos' new technologies initiative is really starting to pay off. It's not a particularly huge threat by itself, but with the right development plan...
Anyway, we finish off the controlled Hydra and the remaining troops. Looks like the Arachnos tunnelers have been busy, and have been branching out from Faultline. How has this completely evaded everyone's notice? This is madness. It leads to an UNDERCITY SUBMARINE BAY, in the name of all fuck.
Luckily, there's someone here who knows his way around water. Meet the last member of our team:
This is Silver Mantis, chief lackey for Black Scorpion, one of Arachnos' top lieutenants. She's no joke, though: her cybernetic implants can slice through nearly anything, and she's impervious to all harm. Riptide may be in over his head here.
To his credit, though, he knows exactly how to size up a situation.
Unfortunately, she manages to knock the wind out of him before I can even make my way up to the catwalk. I, uh, should note at this point that while she's incredibly resistant to damage, and can heal it awful damn quick, she still feels pain, and in fact, has come to... well, she enjoys it. Quite a bit more than is healthy for anybody.
...and even though everyone is saved and no one has died, somehow I still don't feel clean. I'm not sure if I ever will.
In a world where good (nearly) always triumph, this is Arachnos' most successful and insidious secret weapon. Lord Recluse is an unappreciated genius in this regard.
Hi, Gerry. I quit.
Okay, you know what? I'm back in. This isn't really a bad setup, at all. And I'm so glad that at last a super-team recognizes the value of remote logistical support and can treat those individuals as full members. And, after all, I'm glad to have the chance to represent for the citizens of Praetorian Earth.
So, let's check out this new HQ. Can't be too bad, can it?
It's a basement. Well, an above-ground HQ would be more vulnerable, I guess we could look at it that way.
Hey, not bad, actually. Just move the boxes of old Transformers out of the way and you're good to go. I'd sort through them and eBay them for extra prestige, but there's all sorts of dead bugs at the bottom.
Looks like the team members all have something to say, and they just can't resist bringing up our past history.
"For what it's worth, I'm genuinely sorry about that. Let's make sure this world is a place where those sorts of choices never have to be made."
There's not much I can say to that. I made a lot of poor decisions in my past, and some good ones, but here, we can all get a fresh start. This is a world where we have the freedom to forge our own futures, where we don't have to get forced into making the choice between "bad" and "worse" by some megalomaniac with what in the shit is that beeping
Oh, it's this tool. This is The Center, leader of the Council. His real name is Paolo Tirelli and he's about a hundred years old (no lie), yet nobody else seems to know much about him. I'd never really crossed paths with him until now, and I wonder if I'd even be able to reach into his past. If he has any powers at all, I suspect they'd have to do with a complete shroud of privacy. Rumor also has it that he has some augmented (perhaps mutant) powers of persuasion, which would explain how he's held onto power for so long.
Fortunately for us, then, he decided to set his desk up in front of two massive exhaust fans before his big broadcast.
FFFFSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT, CAN'T HEAR YOU, SORRY FFFSSSSSSSHHHHHHH CALL BACK LATER
Well I'm glad one of us caught all that.
So, there's a massive jailbreak in Brickstown. The biggest one since the last one, even. I'm not seeing what's so impressive about this grand plan, seeing as how there are escaped prisoners all over Brickstown at all hours of the day. It's bizarre that he would ever think his offers would be attractive to us. No, I'm not going to become a lieutenant in the Council just to avoid putting a few orange-jumpsuited ten-time losers back in the clink.
I'm going to find out your real plan, and then I'm going to yank that stupid coffee-can hat down over your face and tap out the Morse code for "HOLY SHIT YOU'RE OLD" over and over on it. How about that.