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    He left the room. Passed a chamber filled with row upon row of thin, somewhat flimsy-looking robots; they saluted in unison. Farther down he found a control room of some sort, also full of robots, although these were more humanoid. On one monitor he saw robots building more robots in some sort of factory.
    "Sir." The robots saluted as he entered. Scott looked around for an unoccupied terminal where he might find out what was going on.
    "Do you need someone to relieve you in the monitor room, sir?" a robot inquired.
    "Unit 7." Another robot lumbered away down the hall. "According to our records, you were supposed to maintain position there for another sixteen hours. Has something changed?"
    "Acceptable." Not a particularly imaginative sort, it asked no further questions. "The master is currently out, he will be returning soon. He is speaking with The Principal."
    "Ah." Who?
    "A more cunning and dangerous supervillain has never existed," the robot added as if by rote, then returned to its duties in silence.
    "Place more pressure on the congressman," another robot was saying over a communications link. "Maintain surveillance."
    He decided to start by finding out what day it was; according to the computer, it was early morning on either the 26th or 27th. Apparently he had lost a couple of weeks, which was just a bit bothersome.
    Next question: where was he, and what was he supposed to be doing? He dug through files for a while and found that apparently he was Colonel Silver, second-in-command of Techmaster's forces and the most advanced artificial intelligence ever constructed. Techmaster was in the midst of his plans to dominate all of Boston, first through sowing confusion via exercise of hidden power, and finally by unleashing his robotic forces upon the city, currently hidden in the tunnels beneath Boston. The unleashing was scheduled for three days from then.
    I don't want to be a villain. He memorized the timetable for Techmaster's conquest and decided to make his exit before "the master" could return, necessitating an awkward conversation and some criticism of his ideas about robot design. The robots saluted again as he left; thanks to his position, none of them questioned him.
    Once he got out into the tunnels, he realized that they were not in fact the tunnels under Boston, which he had spent the past few months of spare time mapping. Instead they looked like what someone would have built if someone had told them that there were tunnels under Boston. He headed up to try and find Thunderbolt.

    John Astaverdia, maverick cop, woke in his squalid little apartment to the sound of the phone ringing.
    "Yo, Astaverdia," he grunted.
    "Hi, it's Samantha, I'm over at Paul's place. Could you come over? He's acting really weird."
    "Yeah, I'll be right over."
    He got into street clothes, grabbed his katana, and roared through the streets of Boston on his Harley, toward Back Bay.

    "Why don't you sit down? Do you want me to get you a drink of water?" Samantha offered, worried.
    Thunderbolt was starting to see the edges of what was going on. "Oh. Right. Samantha. Sorry... I guess I'm a little disoriented this morning. No problems."
    "You scared the hell out of me," she sighed, relieved that he seemed to be returning to normal.
    "Sorry," he repeated slowly. "What's the last thing you remember?"
    "I went to sleep, after kicking you out of your bed." Really, he had been quite gallant about it.
    Since he seemed to have calmed down a bit, she headed to the bathroom and took a shower. Thunderbolt spent the time cleaning and checking his gun; at least that remained comfortingly familiar to him. When the doorbell rang, he got up and answered it, admitting someone who looked quite a bit like Phoenix Talon.

    Talon thought that Thunderbolt looked awfully calm after the whole battle yesterday, the explosions, and fighting the giant silver blob-thing. Had to give the guy credit.
    "So." John nudged him in the ribs, winked. "How was your night?" Then he saw the made-up couch and realized the captain had wussed out again. "Always next time." Samantha emerged from the bedroom, still wearing Thunderbolt's t-shirt, which came down almost to her knees. The only thing she had to change into was her costume.
    Phoenix Talon wolf whistled. "Nice view."
    She wrinkled her nose at this typical behavior and flipped him off when he wasn't looking. "Paul seems a little back to normal, he's remembered who I am, anyway."
    "Yes, you're... Samantha."
    John's ninja senses suggested that Paul was hiding something. "So, what's up?"
    "He was acting weird," she shrugged. "Plus, jeez, it's nine o'clock in the morning already, we need to figure out what we're gonna do."

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson