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  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Story So Far | Aside |





"Shovels" Stevie returned from New York and met Scott at the office to talk. Stephanie, Felix, and Harvey the new office cat were all there as well. The latter rubbed against Scott's silver surface.
    "Ah, he likes you," the secretary observed with a smile. "Stevie's in the back room waiting for you. How's everything going at the base right now?"
    "Pretty good," he allowed.
    "Anything new come up?"
    "Phoenix went down to Houston, somebody I haven't gotten any real details on managed to evade Thunderbolt...."
    "What's Needle doing?" Was that an edge in her voice?
    "Being Needle," he shrugged. "I've been kind of busy mapping the tunnels under the city recently." Also putting some better defenses into the Blobcave, based on nonlethal Plovian technology of course.
    "Oh, how's that going?" Felix turned to ask.
    "Pretty good, I'm almost complete. About eighty percent done, I'd say."
    "I'll be interested in seeing the total layout when it's done. Who knows, maybe it spells something in an ancient language."
    "That would be neat." Depending on what it spelled, anyway.
    "I've seen stranger things."
    "I'm kind of hoping for a giant underground temple complex somewhere down there."
    "Oh, there has to be," was the serious reply. "If you haven't found one yet...."
    "Well, I found Gretchen's sacrificial sites, but I'm hoping for something a little more Kirby-esque," he admitted before heading back to where Stevie was waiting, drinking a cup of the office coffee.
    "All right," the old sidekick nodded. "I have the files; what do you need to know?"
    "Who he was, how he operates, the type of bases he'd want... where the body is," he added reluctantly.
    Stevie set the mug down and shook his head. "No one ever found out his real name. He claimed to have been born in 1800. He also claimed that he was working on immortality, who knows. I do know like we said, there was that one time that we killed him," he made a sound not quite like a laugh, "and he walked out of the morgue. Where's the body? The body's next to the waterfall that was next to his base, where Digger cremated the body and threw it into the river to separate all of the ashes. And if he came back from that, I don't want to have anything to do with it. Not that I want to have anything to do with it anyway," he added, then sighed.
    "You know, when I was working with the Digger I saw some weird, weird shit, but mostly it was just human greed, human stupidity. The number of dumb things that people will kill one another for... and we understood that, that's what we were doing. Digger was avenging the dead. But this guy... he didn't have a reason that made any sense. He was—killing people for the phases of the moon, and separating out their blood and brain tissue in order to try and make himself live forever, and there wasn't any reason for who he picked. One time it was the worst criminal we'd ever run into, the next time it was a nun. And there were a whole bunch of innocent people in between." He paused for a memory-laden moment before continuing. "What he'd want for a base? Got a spare castle around here?"
    "Not in Massachusetts, as far as I know," Scott allowed. "There's one in Connecticut."
    "He had one built for himself, out in the Berkshires. That's where we finally—Digger finally got him. Of course, his castle blew up. I can show you where it was," he added with clear reluctance.
    "Probably be a good idea, but if you want you can leave the files and walk," Scott offered, unwilling to inflict more painful memories on his friend—or worse, if the Resurrectionist really was back.
    Stevie hesitated. "I don't know, man."
    "You're out of it, there's no need to drag yourself back."
    "Yeah, but I don't like running away from things, either." There was a long pause. "I'll bring you out there, I'll show you where it is. I'm not going into the ruins. All right?"
    "Good enough."
    "When do you want to do this?"
    "You off on the weekend?"
    "Sounds good. I'll get a car." He spent the rest of the day in the office, working with the case files. Stephanie rented a truck for the expedition (well, actually, she rented a compact and they got a truck—she had experience with car rental companies), and the two of them left in the middle of the night. It would take four hours or so to get out there, and he wanted to have a full day of sunlight available while he explored the ruins.
    Stevie drove, of course, with the radio cranked high; Scott didn't have a license. When the sun rose they were among the gentle hills of the Berkshires. From Stevie's description, he was expecting a foreboding wood leading up to a cliff face with a waterfall and the remains of the castle.
    What they found was now a wealthy subdivision.
    Stevie stared as they drove around the neighborhood. "It wasn't like this before, but that was before the war, I guess... things change."
    "Nice houses," Scott noted. Very nice. Very large.
    "I expected us to have to get up and start hiking some time before this. According to my map, it's through there." He pointed to a rambling house with a wood behind it. "Past that, there's the river and cliff. You want to just pull into their driveway and ask if we can look around?"
    "I was joking, but I should have known better." Stevie pulled into the long drive and parked next to the Mercedes. Scott got out and rang the doorbell; fortunately, someone was up and about.
    "Hang on a minute," someone called, before a thirty-ish man opened the door and blinked at his visitor. "Yes? You're Scott Silver!"
    "Yes, I am."
    "Hi, I'm John."
    "Pleased to meet you."
    "Is there a supervillain in the neighborhood?" he asked with a worried look. "Should I go and hide the cats?"
    "No, there isn't to the best of my knowledge. Question for you, how far back do you own?"
    "Oh, we own all the way out to the river." He gestured in that direction.
    "I need to go back past the ridgeline on the other side of the river."
    "Why?" John asked, still worried.
    "There's a ruined castle back that way I need to go look at."
    "Cool," was the soft, impressed reply. "Wait'll I tell Billy we have a ruined castle."
    "I'm not sure if it's actually on your land or if I just have to go through it, but I thought I'd ask," he explained.
    "Oh, sure. Who's the older gentleman out there?"
    "He's a friend of mine; I don't have a driver's license."
    "Oh, he's your chauffeur? Sir? Sir! Would you like to come in and have some lemonade while your superhero friend's looking through the woods?"
    "No, I'll stay in the truck with my beer, thanks." Stevie being prey to some old-fashioned prejudices, he wanted nothing to do with John and Billy.
    "Okay." He looked disappointed.
    "Thank you very much," Scott said.
    "Oh, you're welcome. If you find anything, let me know?"
    "I will." Maybe. He moved quickly through the woods toward the ridge.
    Forty-five years ago there had been a precipice extending over the river, the castle's bowels running deep in the cliff. When the explosions went off, the entire thing had collapsed into the water. He could see rubble along the sides of the waterfall; what had once been a fairly wide, slow-moving stream had become much quicker with the narrowing of the channel. It was beautiful, despite the dark clouds rolling across the sky and hinting at a thunderstorm to come.
    Scott schlorked his way to the ruins and began poking through the rubble. He found the marker indicating the end of the property; the land the castle had been on did not seem to be part of John and Billy's parcel.
    There were entryways down in the cliff face that looked promising; when he made his way down there, he found not only the opening but evidence of where someone had cleared a passage some time ago. The stone was marked by heavy equipment—a winch or an elevator, he guessed. Scott basked in the remaining sunlight for a few moments to store up some energy and descended into the catacombs. The air was very still, suggesting that there were no other exits. The passage branched after a short way, one tunnel turning downwards, the other continuing forward.
    He went down, and at the bottom was surprised to find a half dozen figures milling in the passageway. Scott turned to gas and lurked for a while, watching them. They weren't breathing, and all six were identical—large, brutish men, caricatures of humanity. They were, perhaps, guarding the way into the room beyond them; he slipped past as fog. There was no light left at all. He felt for a light switch and found a busbar on the wall, threw it, turning on a series of overhead lights.
    Next to the switch he had thrown was a second one, marked "gate." In the room were twelve cases, similar to the ones he had seen in the Poughkeepsie lab, where Tempest and the others had been stored. The construction was different, but the overall function seemed the same, and there were bodies suspended inside some of them, two sets of quintuplets, different from the ones outside. There were marks on the floor where someone had taken out two more sets of cases, no doubt the people who had been there before.
    Beyond those was a large... garden? The colors were wrong; stark white, blood-red—flesh colors. The stalks of the plants looked like bone with tendons holding them erect. They looked a bit withered, perhaps due to lack of sunlight, but they were clearly still alive. Large pods hung from some of them, bulging pregnantly. There were twenty-eight plants.
    Scott inched closer. In the time that no one had passed this way, some of the pods had ripened and split; desiccated corpses lay on the ground, being slowly consumed by the roots below. One of them looked exactly like three of the men who had been pulled out of the river.
    This was creepy; he was beginning to understand why Gravedigger had hated this man so much. He was also glad that he didn't have an alimentary canal, because vomiting looked unpleasant. There was no way out of the room other than the way he had come. The guards were shuffling into the room, dimly aware of his presence. He moved past them, back into the room they had been in before.
    "No, back here," he chirped. They turned and pursued him again; he reached a pseudopod past them and threw the gate switch, locking them out of the room with the garden to preserve the evidence. Then he set about clearing the zombies out of the way; it didn't take long to put them out of commission.
    That done, Scott retraced his path to the other fork, pausing to step outside and absorb some of the lightning now stabbing down from the storm, which had broken during his explorations underground. Rain drove into the surface of the river, clouding its flow.
    Deeper in the cliff, he found a large generator running off the waterfall's flow. The technology was antiquated, but impressively enough still seemed to be in working order. Sparks crawled off it once in a while. What was not in evidence, to his vexation, was any sort of records. Whoever had come here before him must have taken anything that was there, along with the two sets of zombie clones.
    There was nothing else to see, it seemed. He left the tunnel and poked around the ruins of the castle for a little while; they had been disturbed as well, no doubt by the same people. Thorough, he approved. Then he went looking for the grave Stevie had told him of, where Gravedigger had interred the bones left after he'd burned the body.
    There was a tree there now, about forty years old. It looked... odd. Paler than it should be. It didn't look like the flesh plants from the garden, though. Scott ignored the chilly rain sliding off his surface and started digging in its roots. He found the skeleton tangled in them, intact, and wasn't at all upset about killing the tree in the process. Flesh plant or no, it wasn't quite right. About a foot from the ground was an odd growth in the trunk, as if the interior were knotted in some way. If you squinted at it right, it looked almost like a body.
    He returned to the house as the rain continued to fall. Stevie had given up and gone inside despite his reservations. He'd drawn the line at lemonade, though.
    "So did you find anything?" John asked.
    "Well, actually, yes. Is the land behind you owned by the development company, do you know? It's the other side of your property line."
    "I don't know. We didn't buy this place originally, it was constructed, the whole place was done up in the 1960s, originally a couple of biochemists owned this place before us."
    "Did they really. Do you happen to know who they were?"
    "No, I can't remember their names. They were a very nice couple, though, and it's how we knew that we'd fit into this neighborhood." He glanced at Billy. "I don't know... I can check and find out, I think all of this was originally done by Fairlawn Construction Group...."
    "If you wouldn't mind."
    "Let me go look through the papers. Would you like some lemonade?"
    "No, thank you. Do you mind if I use your phone?" His wouldn't reach all the way to the city from here.
    "Oh sure, go ahead."
    He called Reilly, who was, he suspected, not going to be happy about this. "Hi, Reilly, it's Scott."
    "Oh, Scott. So where are you right now, are you checking out the League or are you tracking down the Egyptian artifacts?"
    "The League? Actually I'm checking out a ruined castle out in the Berkshires."
    "Oh. All right."
    "How soon do you think you could get a set of secured moving vehicles and a crime scene unit up here?"
    "The Berkshires? I'll call the locals."
    "Is there an FBI office anywhere in the area? We need a good crime unit," he emphasized. "And maybe some people who've seen some really, really weird stuff. MEDUSA base anywheres nearby?"
    "Let me check on my map here." Pause. "We have two choices here. We have an FBI office in Springfield, which is closer to you than we are, and then there's a MEDUSA-connected government facility in New York state, I don't know which one would be closer to you... I'm just gonna put a call through to the FBI office."
    "MEDUSA's probably monitoring their phones anyway," he agreed. "I think we're gonna need a few possibly-hazardous materials moving vehicles, and a good solid crime scene unit. And maybe a flame thrower," he added, thinking of the tree.
    "Scott, what have you found?" He sounded afraid of the answer.
    "A castle that used to be owned by somebody who used to make people, that made other people out of parts."
    "All right, we'll get some people out there as soon as we can. Should I tell you 'good work'?" he inquired hesitantly.
    "We're not even nearly done yet," he informed Reilly, as close to grim as he ever got. "Thank you for letting me use your phone," he told John.
    "Not a problem."
    "I'm afraid we're going to have to stay for a little while, we can wait in the truck if you like...."
    "Oh, you're perfectly welcome. Oprah's on in a little bit."
    "There's going to be a contingent of law enforcement officers arriving soon."
    John's eyes widened. "Was there a murder?" he asked in a hushed voice.
    "Not in the last forty years."
    "Oh. Oh my. I hope the neighbors don't get worried."
    "As I said, not in the last forty years. There is, however, evidence that needs to be collected."
    "They're on their way here? I should make coffee."
    "It's likely to be several hours, but that might not be a bad idea." Once John had gone off to the kitchen, he told Stevie about what he'd found.
    "Flesh garden? That fits," he nodded grimly. "Gravedigger told me something like that once, he had one in a greenhouse in New York. The first time we tracked him down, he was a society doctor, owned a penthouse, had a greenhouse at the top of it, one of those was in it."
    "About twenty-eight of them down there."
    "That's the number of parts he cut people up into...." Stevie looked far away and swigged from his beer.
    Scott called his office to put his henchmen to work.
    "All right," Felix said. "I'll get to work on that. Fairlawn...." He tapped at the computer. "Oh, you're kidding me!" He sounded disgusted. "You can forget about Fairlawn Construction, boss; you want to know who the architect was who designed the place?"
    "Oscar Roberto Borous, but he just liked to use his initials."
    "O.R. Borous?"
    "Yes. Why don't we start doing some research, huh?"
    "Sounds like a plan. This guy's building plants out of dead people, really strange."
    "That is weird," Felix agreed.
    Scott spent the rest of the weekend with the FBI unit near the castle. Every one of the plants in the flesh garden turned out to be grown from a different body part, and sort of personified that part of the body. The liquid in the tubes matched the traces they'd gotten from the autopsied zombies. They eventually cleared the place out, seriously creeped out in the process. The flamethrower was liberally applied to the tree, and the skeleton below it encased in lead. These guys weren't interested in messing about.
    He didn't know what to do about the flesh garden. No doubt it would end up in some secret government lab somewhere, along with the stasis tubes. He brought some of the empty ones and other pieces of equipment back to the headquarters with him for further examination, along with a hefty file of notes and video that no one else really wanted to look at. He dropped those off at the office.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson