Chapter 28

Milton Weedleby shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Various instruments and minor lights, none of which offered any comfort, dimly lighted the helicopter's interior. He continued to hold the helmet he wore as "Magnifty", trying to get some hint of the kind of power he once enjoyed. For the past few months he had been a fugitive, no, that's not quite right.

Officially he was the prisoner of the Y-Guys, the elite group of meta-humans who use their talents to protect society, even if it's from itself. He was positive about that last part. He'd heard each of the Y-Guys say it to the others at least once a day. Milton hoped that he would be dropped off somewhere soon, because he was starting to find their heavy dialog and incessant need for monologues really annoying.

Well, that and occasionally being knocked unconscious for no reason by the one that called himself the Badger.

Still, none of that was why Milton was suddenly, deeply wishing he could be somewhere else.

Sitting across the way from him was a tall, sandy haired man with a bushy mustache. He wore a medium weight all weather jacket, jeans and boots. He looked like an average citizen out for a nightly walk. Milton wasn't totally sure who this person was, but he could empathize with him. The man hadn't complained when he was dragged into his seat, but he had woken up afterwards. At first the man looked at Milton suspiciously, waiting for Milton to react.

Milton had just given a helpless shrug and then looked to the forward compartment where the Y-Guys had gone. The man had tested the straps that held him in place. The man then carefully studied everything with an angry eye.

Eventually the compartment door opened and a woman entered the room.

The man did nothing to hide the revulsion he had for her when he spoke her name. "Mentra. I should have known."

"I'm glad that my reputation precedes me, but then justice is always feared by the wrong."

Bob laughed a bit. "Justice? My dear, I'm afraid that you haven't been watching the news. In fact if I remember correctly, you and your associates were on your merry way to The Facility."

"That was simply a misunderstanding driven from fear. Once we've proven that we were correct, we will be accepted again. There is a great evil afoot, Mr. Malevolent, we are simply doing what it takes to save the planet."

"Ah, so keeping Mr. Weedleby your personal prisoner, attacking several officers of the peace, several counts of wanton destruction, theft of fuel, and now an additional count of kidnapping are now all acts of 'justice'. And there are some that wonder why some of us decide to pursue alternate lifestyles. Well, at least I'll never have to worry about lycra making my thighs look like that."

Mentra looked very agitated. "I require information you may have about an alien artifact. You can either tell me or I am quite capable of extracting the information from you."

Bob smiled, with a fair amount of confidence, "Oh, good, I was afraid that you might actually stop adding charges against yourself. I can only guess what means of torture you plan on using. Mind you, I'm not going to mention any, I want to see how creative you can be on your own."

"We do not torture." Mentra hissed. "There are more efficient methods available." She raised a hand toward Bob.

Bob grimaced hard as if in pain. Milton shifted again, he knew exactly what Bob was going through. He was having his mind opened by Mentra, who was sifting through his thoughts. Milton couldn't watch, he hung his head down, imagining himself back on his bike in New Jersey.

Bob laughed.

Milton looked up again to see Mentra turning a shade of red. Bob sat staring at her his eyes fixed on her, droplets of sweat were forming on both of their heads.

"Impressive, Mr. Malevolent, "

"Thank you. It's a little trick I picked up in class."

"...but useless, I assure you."

"Seems pretty useful right now. You know there's two ways that you can get through mid-terms when your professor can read minds, one is to actually study, the other is not let him find out you're cheating. I got an A."

Bob stopped smiling, and winced again.

"Your overconfidence is your undoing, Mr. Malevol-AAH!"

"And your gullibility is yours, Ms. Carson, is it? "

Milton could feel himself cheering Bob on.

The Badger suddenly appeared through the door. "Mentra, I heard you yell. Are you...?."

Mentra was concentrating hard. The battle between herself and Bob was not going well.

Streams of sweat poured from the grinning Bob. Although he looked cool and collected, Milton could see that the battle was taking its toll on him as well.

The Badger didn't talk, he simply leapt over to Bob and cold-cocked him. Mentra collapsed into a heap, panting. The Badger held her, "Are you ok? What was he doing to you?"

Mentra shook her head trying to clear it. "Nothing, it was.. mirror... I'm ok." She looked toward Bob. "He is unconscious. This will be a bit more difficult."

"Mentra, don't. We can beat it out of him later."

"No! We are not criminals."

Milton knew better than to raise the question about the long list of more than questionable activities a second time.

Mentra glared at the slumped Bob, "But these are desperate times." She drew a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Bob jolted a bit, and moaned.

Milton felt very uncomfortable again.

"It's difficult going through his mind, there are.. blocks.. but.. the artifact, yes, what about the artifact? No, it was destroyed it was in some, some machine or something, Margie?" Mentra asked the last with a note of surprise in her voice?

"Margie? Who's Margie?" The Badger asked.

Suddenly the Chopper shuddered and began to sway. Mentra and the Badger were thrown against the far wall.

"Margie.." Bob said with a bit of a smile still only half awake.

The floor of the chopper growled.

Attached to the rear of the helicopter, hung Margie. Her titanium teeth slowly sinking into the armor and mechanics. The pilot desperately tried to keep the vehicle in the sky. Margie shook herself, trying her best to ensure that the vehicle did not remain there. Margie was currently winning.

"What the hell is that?" the Badger yelled toward the front of the chopper. "Biclops, did we hit something?"

"More like something hit us."

"That's impossible, were more than six thousand feet up."

Margie shook herself and sent the occupants rattling again. As if on queue the tip of a fang popped through one of the walls.

"Yeah, well you might want to tell that to the thing out there. Get up here, I need you to help shake it."

The two Y-Guys crawled out of the hold and back into the forward compartment.

Milton released his seat harness and crawled over to Bob.

"Who.. what.."

"Shh. They'll hear you." Milton shushed. "This may be our only chance. There's something attacking the helicopter." Milton began undoing the straps holding Bob in place.


Margie growled again. Bob smiled wide. "Margie, good girl!"

"Should I ask what 'Margie' is?" Milton said cautiously.

Bob smiled as he rubbed his wrists. "Our ticket out of here."

ID: 33418ADA99821

> FROM: Grylix Command
> You are overdue. Long range scanners do not indicate you in orbit around Purfgre-V.
> Everything OK? Please report status immediately.

TO: Grylix Command
FROM: Qrnq Zrng
SUBJ: Status Report (Purfgre-III)

Uhm, Hi!

So, I know it's been a bit since I wrote, but a lot has happened. I've spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the best way of telling you everything that's gone on. So failing that I've just decided to get ripping drunk and write this all down.

Good News: The Humans have managed to crack light about two hundred years early. I don't know where you got your time estimate from, but I'd hang on to the receipt.
Bad News: We can't tell anyone yet.

No, really. Look, the deal is that I was sitting out at Purfgre-V just like I said I was waiting for that batch of hyperactive space brine to finish doing whatever the heck it was they were doing. By the way, have I mentioned again what a really bad idea it is giving us no way to take on idiots like that? I know we're not supposed to interfere or anything, but let me tell ya, sitting on my fat ass while the planet I'm supposed to be guarding is about to get itself wiped out isn't the happiest of situations. Oh, and by the way? These guys aren't as helpless as we thought. I don't know how they managed to scrap one together but they got a pretty impressive fleet. I've attached vids. They were almost holding their own.

So after all the fuss and strife, I figured I should keep my head down a little longer. I was just about to head back over to Purfgre-III when all of a sudden I get this incredible energy spike from within my hold. (see attached) I wander on down and lo-and-behold, there are two of the little dirt darlings sitting in a modified version of a ground transport vehicle, screaming their heads off.

Before you ask, no I didn't get a chance to scan its signature. I didn't have to. Not ten micros later, a GTG ship pops up next to us claiming that they picked up a gate signal. (yup. More attached, note, this is what I could scrounge after they "accidentally" wiped the core) Hey, we may want to do a bit more research on the GTG, they showed up suspiciously fast and claimed that the signal originated months ago.

This is the part that gets really weird. On board was some Jelvan claiming to be the Stockholder. Couldn't have been though since he not only decides not to gatebake the planet, but he also gives in when yours truly invokes our protectorate. I nearly geeked myself, but yes indeedy, he gave in.

But he took the engine.

Turns out that whoever built it was definitely human because it violated damn near every single g.patent out there. I'm trying to find out who built it, but so far nobody's stepped up. Heck, I'm even running ads in the local low-band comms.

So that's why we can't tell anyone. I'm guessing that the engine was either a fluke or I haven't found the right group yet.

Oh, that's the other thing.

I'm now stationed on Purfgre-III.

Wow, I can hear Onpba screaming from here.

Look, this planet is already crawling with g.civs, but we kind of figured it would be considering where it is and what its got, right? One more ain't gonna make any difference. And besides, GTG already knows we're here. Heck, they pretty much handed us the place. Besides, if any of you have a better idea how I can find someone who apparently doesn't want to be found while I'm sitting in a can in orbit, I'm all ears.

I'm also sticking with the original plan of getting these folks incentivised to haul it back into space. I tell you, these guys are perfect. Provided they don't blow themselves into atoms, they're just what we're looking for.

Zrng out.

PS. Oh, if you could, can you send another case of navzny grfgrf on the next supply run? I had to use the last can to keep some natives happy. Don't ask. In return I'll send you a case of some stuff that makes Taj look like a sedative.

Billy had stopped trying to shoot, it wasn't helping and he had run out of ammo a while ago. For now he ran blindly down an alley looking for somewhere to hide. He couldn't see anyone chasing after him, but he knew that didn't matter. He knew for a fact that Wayne was already down. He thought he heard Switchblade scream earlier, but knew full well that he was on his own.

Billy dove behind a dumpster and peeked out. He tried to stop breathing hard but it only made him rasp louder. A car drove by and in the flicker of it's headlights Billy saw a shape that nearly stopped his breathing, as well as his heart.

It was a small figure wearing an old style hat and coat.

At first Billy hadn't thought too much when the crew first saw that weird gray guy standing on their getaway car. He looked like something out of an old 1940's gangster flick.

Switchblade even laughed when the gray guy had said they were under arrest. What was some little jerk gonna do against five of the toughest in the 'hood? 'specially when they do this!

Billy remembered seeing the flash from Switchblade's gun. He remembered seeing the gray dude leap off the side of the car.

That's when the car blew up.

Everyone dropped the stuff they had, Lil' Mikey was the first one to go down. Billy could still see the surprised look on his face as Mikey realized he was wrapped up in some sort of leg restraint. There was a sudden whipping sound and Mikey's arms were bound up next. The rest of the crew took off running.

It was like some bad movie. They guy seemed to be everywhere. Bullets didn't stop him, heck he just started laughing.

Billy ran. He didn't care where anymore, he just knew he had to get away.

"You really didn't make it much of a challenge you know." The voice brought Billy back to the moment. He was here, somewhere. Billy scanned the alley looking for anything, but everything was same dull shade of gray.

Billy tried to squeeze himself into the wall "Who are you, man?"

"I thought that would be obvious. I'm someone who doesn't like you." The last bit was almost whispered into his ear. Billy desperately looked around for the source, positive it was the shadow next to him. Billy tore down the alley again, fear driving him faster than he'd ever run before.

"It's nothing personal, you realize. Well, actually yes it is." The voice taunted him. It echoed after his footsteps, unlike Billy, the voice sounded fresh and relaxed.

"You probably don't know this, but I've been here for about a year now, and you lot have been sort of off limits to me. Honestly, I had been told not to leave you to the police."

An arm came out of nowhere and caught Billy in the chest. It felt like he had been hit by a lead pipe, Billy collapsed in a heap barely able to breathe. "I've decided to ignore that request and see if I can't lend the finest a hand every now and then."

Billy slowly opened his eyes, every deep breath sent a nauseating wave of pain through him. He must have broken a rib. A grey silhouette loomed above him. "In fact I've decided that so long as I have to live in this town, I'm going to do what I can to make it a nicer place to be."

Billy threw something wet and heavy toward the shadow. The pain nearly made him black out, but he crawled to his feet and started hobbling away.

The voice still continued, unaffected by the struggle. "The fact that running two bit hoods like you down is delightful exercise is just a nice perk, Oh, watch you hand!" Billy reached for the top of a fence. A pole that struck from behind neatly smashed his hand. Billy screamed in pain and sank against the wire meshing. The figure chuckled.

"Now I know that you'll have lots to talk about when you're in jail, but if you could do me a favor can you mention me to your friends? If the ask, just say that I'm they guy that they don't want to meet."

Billy opened his eyes to try to look at who was addressing him. The figure fixed his hat and brushed off a dark spot on his coat. "Wh… who… are…"

"Me? My name isn't important, and if you really want to know it, it's not hard to figure out. Let's just say, I'm the last guy in Boise you want angry at you."

"Are.. you… Bob?"

The figure bristled a bit at the name, then stretched out an arm,

"No, I'm worse."

Billy felt two things hit his body, then blacked out as the tazer fired.

'A'hm bored' Becky Sue whined. 'How long are we gonna lay here watchin' ol' green drawers like some frat boy on a panty hunt anyway?'

'It's time well invested, or perhaps you'd rather we let our mysterious friend continue to run unchecked." Karl, who was never one to really chat, had drawn the short straw. His job was to keep Becky Sue occupied so she didn't do something rash like shoot Zrng or give away their position. Roger and the Detective were busy keeping JB unseen and alert, respectively.

Had they been more corporeal, they would have left Lady Peacemaker behind. Unfortunately, that was not an option at the moment. As for JB, he was doing his usual best to play part referee and part conductor.

'Hmm, Roger, can you bring us in closer? I believe our target may be finishing up.' The Detective asked, JB agreed and gave Roger control of his body.

JB leapt through the tree line like a squirrel, but far quieter. It seemed as if not even the branches creaked as Roger deftly moved closer to the dark shape in the moonlit field. JB had identified the shape to be Zrng's shuttle. It blended into the field so well that it was nearly invisible unless you knew to look for it.

'Ah still think yer brother would be better at this than us. I mean this kinda is his area, ain't it?'

'Not so long as we've got Roger.' JB thought.

JB could feel Roger glow a bit at the praise. JB had been the first to really acknowledge or use what Roger had to offer. The other members of the Justice Furlong had been more the run-in-and-bust-heads type than the stealth woodsman.

Roger moved the body as close as he could to the vessel, slowly making his way through the knee high grass, leaving almost no trail behind himself.

'Ya'll sure we can't just shoot 'im and call it a night?'

'None of us trust him more than a broker with an inside tip, Becky Sue, but I'm not willing to see what problems canceling his account might raise with his associates.'

Suddenly the ground shook a bit.

'Whoa!' JB thought, 'Earthquake?'

'No,' replied Roger, 'that was too shallow.'

'Have we been detected?'

'I don't think so, the shuttle engine hasn't…' JB never got to finish his sentence as the shuttle's engine suddenly fired up, Roger dropped JB down as flat as he could. The shuttle leapt into the are, spun around and streaked off into the night.

The ground shook again.

"What the heck is shaking the…" JB said out loud. The moon sat low against the horizon, A shadow passed before it and it caught JB's eye. He pushed himself up a bit and squinted against the darkness.

An instant later Karl had control of the body and was making JB run faster than any human was capable. JB headed of in the same direction as Zrng's shuttle, a direction directly opposite of the moon, and the source of that shadow.

Will Bob and Magnifty escape the plummeting
YGuy helicopter or will the author just say that
they did like he avoided how Bob got captured
to begin with?

What plans do Zrng and the Gryllix
have for Humanity, and will we get
a cut of the residuals?

And what shambling horror lurks in
the darker places of Boise's

Be with us next time for:

Disappointment in Copenhagen
A Dane Shame

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