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The Revolution is back. Get the hell out of our way. - Thunderbolt



Some time in 2086

Tyler Benson, who preferred to be called Ezra (as in Pound), was in what had until recently been his containment room in one of the buildings connected to the Force Defense Contractor complex, outside Washington, D.C.
    It had been supposed to be an experimental test, a means of identifying inherent or induced variant potential, for which he would have been paid rather well for his half day of sitting around. But just when they raised the energy field for the test, a sudden massive downpower had been followed by an equally massive surge and blackout, and when the power came back on Tyler Benson had been replaced by a coherent pattern of base particles—bosons.
    The corporate people hadn't been sure what to do with him right away; higher-ups were summoned from the parent of the little incubator company that had been doing the testing, and he had eventually been taken to D.C. and given some intensive psychotherapy. They had tried to convince him that he had been given a great gift, and an opportunity to use it for the good of the country; this had gone over like a lead balloon. They had sent a different doctor after that, but the whole place still had an unmistakably martial air about it that made him more than a bit uncomfortable. They had treated him well so far—they had better, after all this was their fault—but he would like to be somewhere else, if only he could be assured of a supply of gamma rays. At least writing poetry provided an outlet for the emotions that accompanied the unexpected change in his life. In the two weeks since the accident he had become somewhat acclimated, learned how to move around without disintegrating things or inadvertently walking through walls and so forth.
    After a week they told him that his pattern of base particles was slowly decomposing; Ezra tuned out the technobabble reflexively.
    After two weeks, Dr. Slifer showed up, the second psychologist and the only person there in whom Ezra had any trust whatsoever, along with a man he recognized as John Force, the owner and CEO of Force Defense Contractors and oppressor of the masses. He was wearing a bodysuit and a gun; Ezra sneered invisibly.
    "Ezra, this is—"
    "I know who he is. Hi," he said laconically.
    "Hello. I have a proposition for you," John said. "I think it's probably about time from the conversations I've had with the scientists we have on staff here, for you to start interacting with the outside world a little more. I've been hearing from Melissa that you're a little edgy and looking to get out for a bit."
    "I have a team of people heading up into the New England Forest Preserve, and I think it's a situation in which if it became necessary, your abilities might prove valuable. It's an opportunity to get out, no one's asking you to get directly involved unless you want to."
    "What are they going to do?" he asked warily.
    "You're familiar with the entity known as Power?"
    "Yes." The being had been making appearances for years, and been considered a superhero, as he, or it, showed up where violent crimes were taking place and eliminated those engaged in violence. Recently there had been a change. "I definitely want to be in on this." Power is a symbol of the desperate need of the people for real spiritual breakthrough, he's their unconscious, he thought. I can save Power from the evil fascist bastards Force is sending out after him. Although I'll have to be careful, he might take me, too. Does it really count as violence to disintegrate people?
    "We're leaving at 1900 hours."
    "When's that? Sorry, I don't speak military," he drawled.
    "Forty minutes from now," Force replied with great forbearance. "You'll get to meet the rest of the team."
    "Okay. Nice guns."
    "Thank you," John replied, missing or ignoring the sarcasm.
    Forty minutes later he was getting onto an airship bristling with weaponry. Everyone there would have put his teeth on edge if he still had them. (Ed note: All of these characters, by the way, can be blamed on Mike Coolican, as indeed can the entire future world in this arc.)
    "This is Mr. Benson," said the one in full red-white-and-blue body armor, who had been identified as the American, and began introducing the rest.
    The other flag-based body suit, a guy with high-tech arm bands, was the Patriot. The Native American in full war dress with shield (weird, but more acceptable to Ezra's eyes) was Warpath. The one with cybernetic limbs was Powerhouse but said, "Call me Punch." A slight, long-haired woman sitting in the corner ignoring everyone and cleaning her fingernails with a knife didn't give her name.
    There other two were weirder. One man's body kept changing color and looked like he was phasing in and out of reality; that was Kasikaltron. The other one clung to the ceiling, and when he looked down it was clear that some of his teeth had been extended to form mandibles.
    "And that's Mr. Twister up there on the roof," the American concluded. "Why don't you have a seat Mr. Benson, and we'll get on our way. Everyone all strapped in?" A chorus of affirmatives. He ran a weapons check and the ship took off in a faint hum of antigravity. It was a very fast ship, and took Ezra a certain degree of concentration to stay with it rather than fall through it.
    Up front a couple of switches were flicked and screens came to life, showing news clips of Power in a fight with Legerdemain, a local hero connected to Banner Aerospace, not Force, and busy getting his head kicked in during the fight. A voice-over from a Force scientist provided running commentary. In the early parts of the fight Power appeared berserk; everyone was a target, even those who only screamed and ran away. He was a killing machine now. This is what a hierarchical society does to people, Ezra thought.
    "This happened less than twenty-four hours ago," the voice-over said. "It seems as if the programming Power operated under has gone out of control. Perhaps something happened to him, but he is no longer responding the way our scientists predicted he would. Instead we have someone who is perceiving every other living, moving being as a potential threat, and as any potential threat, Power is attempting to eliminate it. As you see here, he successfully defeated Legerdemain, but not before Legerdemain was able to wrap him in a steel girder and hurl him into what was hopefully a high altitude orbit. Unfortunately it doesn't appear as if that was successful. We were able to track the object as it fell, and it landed in the New England Forest Preserve area."
    "So what she's saying is that Power is a product of Force Industries? They made him?" Ezra asked.
    "No, son," the Patriot said firmly. "It's just they've been studying him for a long time."
    Ezra raised his eyebrows, aware that people could only see his outline.
    "This is probably the best place for the creature to be isolated," the scientist went on. "The forested zone is unoccupied by humans except for the campers and hikers who travel through it. There's a very good chance that he could go for several days without encountering another human being. However, if we're going to deal with him this is the best possible time to do so. He's there by himself, there are no civilians to get in the way. Since it's obvious that he has lost all control, our only objective here has to be to take him down permanently. If it turns out once we have taken him down, that it's a temporary situation, then yes we'll take advantage of it in hopes that we can bring into the laboratory, calm him down and determine how to return him to his original programming state."
    But they didn't make him. Right. Best case would be Power and these idiots wiped each other out. Ezra considered leaving. Nuclear power plants would have gamma rays, wouldn't they? But he didn't know where a lot of those were.
    They showed more clips, familiarizing the team with Power's abilities. He was very fast, and covered with a shield of glowing blue energy from which he could fire lethal concussive energy blasts. He also appeared skilled at hand-to-hand combat when necessary, within seconds adopting the style of anyone he faced.

    * * *

    A light grew on the horizon, spreading like the aurora borealis until with a thunderous crack time and space parted violently, spitting out three falling people. The flash of light illuminated a figure standing on the edge of one of the ruined towers of what was once Worcester, Massachusetts. Almost it might have been a gargoyle, but it wore a feathered cloak and mask with a beak.
    Something strange was happening in his domain. He hurled himself off the ledge, dropped a short distance and caught the wind in his cloak, approaching the site of the disturbance carefully.

    * * *

    So there we were, standing in a field, while blue glowing people wandered randomly out of the woods and groaned at us.
    "Ow," Stephanie said. "Ow. Arm hurts, landed on shoulder wrong. Um." She took a few shaky breaths. "Paul? Where are we?"
    "That's a very good question," I replied for him.
    "Waiting for the explanation," Stephanie prodded.
    "Me, too. What the hell?"
    "You're supposed to know everything!"
    "Well gee, nobody told me that. Here, hold still, let me take care of that arm." More or less by reflex I reached out; the limb was bathed in a brief witchfire glow as I sorted out the sprain.
    "Oh, that feels much better, thank you."
    "Uh, you're welcome." Did I just do that? I shook my head.
    Then rather impressive airship passed overhead and disappeared beyond the trees in a descending pattern.
    "Civilization. I guess," Stephanie said hopefully.
    "Scary civilization," Thunderbolt remarked, taking note of the weaponry.
    "Gosh, I hope the others are okay," I said to myself, and looked at Thunderbolt. "Were you supposed to be dead? I know I'm supposed to be."
    "I think so."
    "If this is the afterlife, somebody has a lot to answer for," Stephanie muttered.
    "I was fighting for control of the castle," he remembered.

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© 2004 Rebecca J. Stevenson