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Dynamo
07-07-2014, 05:11 AM (This post was last modified: 07-07-2014 05:12 AM by Kusanagi.)
Post: #1
Dynamo
The projector sputtered and crackled as grainy black and white footage with the accompanying background piano that made up for lack of recorded audio to match the video. Elliot, even after all these years, still found some magic in it as he watched from the back of the room with a grin slowly growing across his face. The children broke into a cheer as the title card came up; The Amazing Flying Fox! Hero of the City of Archimedes, the city of the future!

Not exactly subtle, but the bombastic quality had its merits. Darting across the screen the Amazing Flying Fox, or least a reasonable facsimile, struck a pose much to the delight of the kids. With his baggy flight suit (garish even when dulled by the black and white footage), his jetpack, and his of course his over-sized flight goggles he looked a little more like a comedian than a superhero. But it was a different time, and then as it still was now, if you had something as cool as a jetpack you could get away plenty of fashion faux pas.

Alongside the Amazing Flying Fox, Elliot felt if you didn’t say the whole thing it lost a bit of the magic, were his companions the Stalwart Society. Not as beloved by the kids, but they made great companions to their hero. Miracle, a lion who’s mystic powers were practically divine, The Yellow Crusader (Elliot took the title cards at their word on that one) an avenging vigilante whose costume rivaled Flying Fox in sheer audacity, the lovely Mistress Talia whose costume was borderline inappropriate for the class in general, and the Mysterious Knight who reportedly wore a deep purple hood which made him positively subdued in comparison to his comrades. “The greatest heroes the world had ever known” the title card proclaimed, even if their role in most of these films was just to make Flying Fox look good. It was to be expected these were filmed and produced in Archimedes, and Fox was their hero.

The general tone of the class seemed positive. There was the occasional ‘oooh’, ‘aaah’, and cheer from the kids as Fox roughed up a baddie or three. Next to him was the teacher, Mrs. Brandt, who favored him with an appreciative smile. Elliot, a fox himself, shifted his 6 foot frame and brushed back his messy brown hair. Subconsciously trying to look his best…even if he knew it was a wasted effort.

“This sucks!” A petulant sprout shouted from the back. To the determined shushes from the rest of the youngsters while the little troublemaker anchored himself spooling to take on his fellow prepubescents. The way they glared at the boy Elliot was sure this had been a sore point in the past. It could have escalated, but the child soon found himself carefully pulled from his seat by Mrs. Brandt. She was a white rabbit, still young but was now what Elliot would call a mature 27. Her demeanor was professional and a lot more conservative than it used to be, though she did allow her red hair to grow out. Some of the fire had left her emerald eyes but none of the tenderness. She had a strict, if motherly, disposition that made her a quality third grade teacher.

“Now Taylor, why would you say something like that?” She said sternly just in earshot of Elliot. The young raccoon looked from side to side; confidence wilting under the firm but gentle gaze of his teacher.

“But it does.” He mumbled defensively not meeting her gaze.

“Taylor.” Mrs. Brandt said with a hint of disappointment. Which gauging by the child’s response, probably hurt more than your standard punishment. Elliot knew that feeling all too well.

“He’s not a hero, my dad says he’s the reason the sky’s pink.” He said with whimpering defiance.

The teacher sighed, running a hand through the little boy’s dirty brown hair. “No he’s the reason we can still see the sky.” She corrected with a note sympathy. “Now go sit down.” She said gently nudging him back to his seat.

No one else spoke up, but for Eliot the mood had dipped. The kids, sans Taylor, applauded the finale as Flying Fox saved the damsel after she had been tossed right from the Capital Tower. They groaned in disappointment once the lights came up.

“Alright Kids, I hope you enjoyed today, because we’re getting right back to work on Monday. Have a safe and happy commemorative weekend.” Mrs. Brandt said, jovially clasping her hands together, and flashing a smile that caused Elliot to look away. The kids filed out, moods returning over the thought of parades, food, good weather, and of course, good old Flying Fox.

Once they had all departed Mrs. Brandt favored Elliot with a quick but sincere hug.

“Thanks for coming out again El. The text books aren’t nearly as thrilling as the serials.” She said gratefully.

“It’s my pleasure, kids should know their history, even if it’s limited to just this.” He gave a glance to the projector and the reels of film.

“Just this?” She said stifling a laugh. “There are people who would say these belong under lock and key in a museum, and you show them to anyone who will ask.”

Elliot bit his lip. “Well not just anyone.”

He threw the young teacher a puppy dog look. Favoring her with big brown eyes that once upon a time the teacher admitted she rather liked. Elliot wasn’t the most handsome fox in the in the world but he’d like to think he could at least pull off average. Mrs. Brandt had the good sense not to feed him any good lines following that. She simply brushed back her hair; prominently displaying her wedding ring as she did so.

“Whatever do you mean by that?” she said innocently.

“Nothing Mrs. Brandt.” He said playfully putting an emphasis on the ‘misses’. Mrs. Brandt rolled her eyes but added no further comment on the blatant flirtation.

“So aside from saving young children from the grips of boredom what are you doing this weekend?” She said gently taking the topic into safer waters.

“Are you making suggestions?” He said with a leer, which earned a gentle punch the arm. He held up his hands defensively. “Easy, does Mr. Brandt put up with these hits?” That earned him another punch with a little more force added to it.

“Be serious. How’s your dad doing?” For a moment Eliot’s face turned somber.

“He’s doing what he always does this weekend, getting lost in the past.” He answered seriously, no longer meeting her gaze.

“It’s not that bad is it?” She chided, to which Elliot thought it over and shrugged.

“I don’t think it does any harm, but I’m not sure it does him any good either.”

She nodded. “If you’d like I could come by for a visit.” She pressed a finger to Elliot’s lips before he could get a word off. “To make sure your father has company.” Elliot sighed and gently removed the finger.

“I think I can manage by myself. It might not be the bonding experience it used to be, but it still matters to him.” Elliot said reluctantly, clearly not looking forward to just what that would entail.

She nodded, giving him what he could best describe as a blatantly platonic hug. “Still, try to have a good weekend. It’s always rough, but it will be over soon.”

“Thank you Mrs. Brandt.” He said now using the name in teasing fashion, but managing to keep his hands to himself. “I’ll try in any case.”

<v>

Elliot’s mood was briefly lifted by his best friend. It came back to earth the moment he stepped outside and the innocent words of that kid stabbed him anew. The day was really like any day. The same pink sky cast over the sprawling metropolis of Archimedes, the suburban, and farm land beyond. It was the same pleasant room temperature it always was, with nary a cloud in the sky, as it had been for nearly a century. A century since the day their city was cut off from the rest of the world and forever cast into isolation. The day the Amazing Flying Fox had saved their lives, but couldn’t save them from this new prison.

The anniversary weekend tended to look at the bright side. The majority of the citizens, including himself, now belonged to the third generation; children born to the children of those caught in the calamity. For the most part it was a celebration for none of them would be alive without Fox’s effort. But it was also a time of reflection. For the world they lost, and for the hardships they had endured in the years that followed; the resource shortages, the rebellions, and the bad old days, all those things that were put behind them now.

Archimedes was arguably in better shape now than it ever had been. Thanks to the collective intellectual might of some of the greatest minds of their time food was plentiful, unemployment was at all-time lows, and crime had been drastically cut back. But it didn’t make the sky blue, and for all their efforts it didn’t let them return to the world they had been torn from. If there was even a world to get back too, El reminded himself cynically.

Elliot’s phone ringing shook him from that depressing line of thought, the graying temples and slightly pudgy red furred face of his father popped up on his screen. “Speak of the devil.” He hesitated, but only for an instant, and answered.

“What’s going on Dad?” There was a disgruntled huff from the other end. His Father hated when he cut to the point like that.

“Not even so much as a hello.” Came the disappointed reply.

“Dad you know I’m on the way, you wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t important.”

“I need to show you something.” His father said with a joyous light in his face.

“Dad I’m already on my way.”

“Yes but I need to show you something ‘special’.” He put an extra emphasis on the word as if they were speaking in public.

“We went over this dad I’m not really interested in the ‘side projects’ anymore.” He put his own emphasis on ‘side projects’, and felt like a moron doing so.

“You’ll want to see this, trust me. You still know the entrance don’t you boy?”

“I could always just take the normal way in.” Elliot said without much enthusiasm, earning him a derisive laugh from the old vulpine.

“I respect your wishes on many things my son, but I will never approve of you becoming dull. Now come on don’t dawdle, and don’t bother with your usual gift cards and bottle of wine. I’ve heard enough platitudes about the weekend, and my wine cabinet is still better than anything you’ll find on the shelves.”

“Love you too dad.” His father hung up, perhaps as payback for the curt greeting Elliot had given him. The young man tried to look on the bright side; he didn’t have to stop by the corner store.

The streets were full of potential party goers. Like any holiday with somber tones it was only a matter of years before it turned into just another reason to celebrate. There were stands for food, a few different concerts, and even though it was only early afternoon it was a safe bet the bars were full to capacity. It made getting through downtown a hassle.

Opting not to be crammed into a tin can like a sardine Elliot decided on walking instead of public transportation. It took a while but he wasn’t in a tremendous hurry, and as bonus he could spite the old man. His lengthy trip also had the benefit that when he finally made it to his Father’s home he had a smile on his face. Even if he had been trying to be sour a city full of happy faces was contagious.

His father naturally wasn’t inclined to get the door, but Elliot had a key handy and was eager to use it. Here the idea of a mundane activity was generally frowned upon, and so even opening the damn door offered difficulties. Once he went to turn the key a telescreen opened in the wall with a layout of a hand. Rolling his eyes at the needless level of security he pressed his hand front and center in the picture. The screen mapped out his finger prints and correctly identified him.

“Front door access denied.” Chirped a robotic tone. “Storehouse entry preferred.”

Elliot narrowed his eyes, debating the merits of tearing the machine from the wall and then walloping his father over the head with it.

There was a time when he loved this stuff. It added to the mood, it added to the necessity, it added a hint of charm and whimsy to what was quickly looking like the end of their city, and given their circumstances, the world as they knew it.

But it wasn’t the bad old days anymore. The food shortages had ended, and while employment wasn’t 100% unemployment struggled to get past 6%. For the most part people were happy. So why couldn’t his father be happy and move on too?

He headed to the back more out of duty to the weekend than wanting to encourage his dad’s exploits. The name ‘storage room’ was a bit of a misnomer, it implied something technical while it was really just a place to study dusty copies of books his father could only be bothered to read once and couldn’t be bothered to justify their existence afterwards.

There were five rows, of maybe a thousand books in total, give or take a couple hundred. Still Eliot knew exactly where to go. He headed to the first row, and after a bit of searching found the book on ‘Daring Do’ published nearly a century ago. He pulled it with utmost certainty and wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised when the floor gave way beneath him. Elliot latched onto the fireman’s pole that awaited underneath and suppressed a joyful laugh. Alright he could admit this bit was fun, but he didn’t want his father to hold it over him.

The ride down was about thirty feet, enough for his good mood to turn almost giddy. It was hard to fight the intoxicating mix of nostalgia and excitement, but it was what needed to be done. It was for his father’s health, for his for his family’s health. He landed composed, a man on a mission, it was time to make a stand.

It was his father, Nicholas DeMont, that was waiting for him. He had hit his 50s but aside from a few modest pounds and a little graying of his fur you’d never know it. He wasn’t at his peak anymore, when he was an imposing six foot three mass of muscle. Instead he had to settle for incredibly in shape, and enjoy the shocked faces on anyone who found out his actual age.

He was positively bouncing at the sight of Elliot. The son crossed his arms and tried to look stern, but his father’s giddiness was positively hard to resist. At this rate Elliot wouldn’t be able to say what he needed too.

“My boy, my boy, do I have something to show you!” Nicholas clasped his hands together, eyes as eager as a kid on Christmas.

“Dad we’ve talked about this I-“ His father held up a finger.

“We have, but I want you to see this, as one engineer to another, nothing more.” His father held up his hand as if taking a solemn vow. Elliot would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested, and if he tried to decline his dad would just keep at it all weekend.

“Fine.” His father jabbed a fist in the air, unrepentant in his moment of victory. “It’s over here by the relics.” He said leading the way past an array of retired ‘relics’.

They were each displayed behind glass, arranged chronologically. His father, while appreciative of advancement, was always dismissive of his earlier work. The first case was still in pristine condition after all it wasn’t one of Nicholas’ designs. The metal black and shining, leather straps polished to the point where’d you swear they had just been freshly crafted, it was the wonder of its day; the original Flying Fox Jetpack. Alongside it was the garish orange jumpsuit that had been even brighter than the Flying Fox’s fur.

Next to it were various other costumes and armors, each a technological marvel in their own right. Suits that did everything from enhance speed, to strength, and of course each had that trademarked jetpack. He paused, coming to a pair of smaller costumes blue and teal respectively. The teal one was slightly smaller and built for a more feminine build.

“How is Amy by the way?” His father asked delicately. Elliot pursed his lips thinking about the best way to respond. “Mrs. Brandt is very happy.” He said dryly.

“Feh I wouldn’t push your buttons if you didn’t make them so damn obvious.” Nicholas said no more though, and let his son spend a few minutes soaking it all in. Elliot spent the most time next to the blue and black armor he wore long ago. He eventually pulled himself from nostalgia to find his father had taken a seat while waiting patiently for his son to finish.

“Enjoy your once a year trip down memory lane?” The old fox said with an ounce of pity. To Elliot it was equal parts, joy, nostalgia, and pain. Those had been great times, but those times had been hard times as well. He would never, ever, ask for a different childhood, while at the same time he would never wish it on someone else. He would never regret the actions they took, in fact, he was proud of them. If Elliot died today he would point to that as his crowning moment in life.

That however did not mean he wished to relive it, and that was the only option his father laid before him.

“This is why I called you here. Wear it or not it’s the pinnacle of my work.” On that Elliot would not argue.

The color scheme was what he had worn during the bad old days as his father’s sidekick. However the helmet did carry a bit of a legacy. It was of the same design as his father’s, and grandfather’s, Gold Standard and Flying Fox respectively. In his career as a sidekick it had been a mock version of the two. Paying his respects but acknowledging that he was on not their level.

Just seeing this new version, expecting to carry on both of their legacies, it hurt. Not because he didn’t acknowledge the need, but because inside he felt decidedly unworthy of it. To have him think he needed to live up to the legacy was archaic and didn’t reflect him at all. He had moved on, this was past him now; at least that’s what his rational thoughts told him. Yet a primal part of him simply demanded he wear the mask now.

“Dad you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.” Elliot finally said.

His father huffed and waved away the complaint as if he was swatting a fly from the air. “I would have done it regardless I’m old, rich, and retired. Your mom isn’t around to keep me stable anymore, and you like to keep your visits brief.” It wasn’t an accusation as such, but that didn’t mean it didn’t sting.

“If I don’t do at least this, I think it’s a one way trip to senility for me.” Nicholas finished in all seriousness.

“Dad you know that…” Elliot started lamely, for all their problems he honestly didn’t want to consider such a thing. His father waved off his concern.

“An active mind is a healthy mind, and I say the development of this is the most active I’ve been in a long time.”

Deciding to let his own issues go for a moment Elliot just looked over the work. “It’s impressive,” he meant that. He would love to see the schematics as there was only so much he could make out of the hardware underneath the aesthetic design, but from what he could tell it would put even the Gold armor to shame, “but why not one for Mrs…Amy instead?” He said, catching his Dad’s humored look, deciding not to give him any more ammunition.

“What do you think my next project is?” Nicholas laughed and clasped his son roughly on the shoulder. “But for now my work is done, and I’m going to sit back and relax.” He slipped just out of the work shop and came back with a bottle of wine and with two sparkling glasses. “Now do we want to go over all the usual bullshit chit chat, or do you want to cut to talking about your Granddad?”

<V>

Change is painful, there’s no getting around it. That was the conclusion Dr. Aaron Mutatio had come to, and it was a thought that would see him through to the bitter end. Of course that didn’t mean the pain would be equally shared, as the shop keep on the floor had found out. The poor canine sported a nasty bruise on his temple along with what was likely a concussion. The shopkeeper would live, and hopefully they’d get through this day without anything drastic, but sadly the good Doctor had long since stopped being an optimist.

The shop they were in was a modest, out of the way, business in one of the city’s oldest districts. Its contents were colorful remnants of the city’s once sparkling role in the ways of the world. But as there were fewer and fewer citizens of Archimedes that had actually seen the world as it had been, no doubt the demand for its trinkets died as well. The muscle Mutatio had brought with him seemed to share this view; looking only with disinterest and bemusement of the wares and goods that had long since lost their novelty.

“Doesn’t really seem to be worth anything boss.” Douglas, a bruiser of few words and fewer thoughts must have put a lot of effort into that sentence, and might have been proud of his keen observation. He was really a monster, an alligator standing 6’7’’ and a veritable wall of muscle. Douglas’ thick brow, bruised snout that had been broken one too many times, and a smile that had its fair share of gaps spoke of a life hard lived. He wasn’t one of those savage types though as he preferred sticking mostly to breaking and entering and other theft rather than more brutish crimes. Douglass was an otherwise gentle soul that was driven to illegal pursuits, of which Mutatio could relate very well. Despite similar aspirations the two were physically opposites. The doctor was a slight red panda, nearly a good foot shorter than Douglass, his face untouched by scars or blemishes. He could almost be called youthful if not for the thinning strands of blonde hair atop his head. The doctor adjusted his wire frame glasses and peered into the dark, a smile creasing his lips.

“The best treasures are often hidden in plain sight my dear boy.” Mutatio said not unkindly, as he encouraged critical thinking, especially in those of which it was unexpected. “You see people like me, or at least those I used to associate with, have the nasty habit of never letting go of past accomplishments even when they really should.”

Douglas nodded along though Aaron was rather dubious if the man understood just what he meant.

“Why didn’t you use the thingy though? I wouldn’t have had to knock him about, probably wouldn’t have had to search either.” Aaron had been digging through assorted dusty baubles that likely hadn’t been looked through in years but rose at the question. Instead of telling the oaf to keep quiet, or ignoring him entirely, the doctor nodded.

“A fair question Douglas and I never care to keep those working with me in the dark. In truth while it would be convenient for us, and the poor shopkeep’s head. We are indeed trying to keep a low profile.” He spared the shopkeeper another look, and indeed he was still breathing which lightened the doctor’s mood. “The ‘thingy’ as you call it is indeed effective but will alert several to its misuse.”

Douglass seemed to accept this though he was still rather lost on what the doc was trying to accomplish, but the doc was one of those council types which meant the money was good at least, even though why a councilman would associate himself with one like Douglas was a mystery to him. That thought could wait for something caught the muscle’s eye.

“Doc, what did you say this key thingy looked like again?”

Aaron’s eye twitched at the repeated use of the word ‘thingy’, but any anger he had was quickly dispelled and replaced by a jubilant grin. Douglass nearly dropped the item as the Doctor took into a tight hug.

“That is it, and I dare say you may have worked your way into the history books!” Aaron took the metallic cylinder into his grasp. “Tomorrow shall be the first day of the rest of our lives.”

The night was what it was. Copious amounts of wine followed by a myriad of stories. The juicy bits that could fill novels: the battles, the affairs, the tech, typically in the first few drinks when the mood could be kept jovial. Then, a few drinks later, came the bits that would actually sell novels, focused on the four d’s primarily; the drugs, depression, dementia, death. The rest of the city celebrated the hero. Nicholas mourned his father. He was probably the only man left alive that really knew the man, and Elliot would be his ear for the night. He owed the old fox that much.

His father slipped off to sleep at a modest time of 10 at night, and not feeling tired Elliot perused the lab. His father had a sentimentality his grandfather never did. Aside from the suit and jetpack Elliot’s grandfather kept a scant few press clippings and stories. It was hard to say if he was like that before the calamity or if it just another side effect. Maybe Nicholas, seeing what happened to his father later in life, was encouraged to keep mementos of all his escapades because of this.

Even with all of his dad’s stories there were things he didn’t immediately recognize. There were trophies, medals, destroyed armors, burnt costumes that were simply before his time. Then there were little knickknacks like playing cards, seemingly innocent wooden soldiers, things that undoubtedly had a story attached to them that Nicholas either never elaborated on or Elliot had long since forgotten.

Then there were the ones Elliot would never forget, as they were distinctly tied to his youth, and quite a few tied to old bruises and scars.

You’d never know it looking at the old armor as his dad had finished filling the bullet holes. It didn’t pay to have a sidekick that looked like they had been gunned down a dozen times or so, no matter how accurate that thought was. It wasn’t a knock on what his father had designed though, far from it. There were a dozen bullet holes that had left their mark out of the thousands that never so much had left a dent.

The bad old days had really been bad. Elliot looked on those days with nostalgia but still remembered the times they had to stich him up at the free clinic lest their secret identities be discovered otherwise. Auntie Helen is what he called the doctor there. She’d given him a lollipop after stitching his side. She’d give him two if she needed to pluck a bullet or shrapnel out. Didn’t matter that he was a teenager at the time, a lollipop’s a lollipop.

It occurred to him if he told this to a therapist his dad would likely be seeing serious jail time, but the thought of somehow punishing his dad never came to mind. Elliot had his problems with his father to be sure but it had nothing to do with the pain he went through as a kit. When the government was failing, and hundreds were dying in the streets, that he only suffered an occasional shrapnel wound was likely a blessed childhood.

With some reluctance he turned away from the relic and walked the rest of the gallery.

The problem was that his father couldn’t move on, Elliot had. He spared brief look at the armor next to his old one and a briefer stab to the chest, but could acknowledge that Mrs. Brandt had moved on as well.

What made his father different? Was he just a product of his time? No, his mother was a product of their time. She was the only one in the immediate family not to don a suit, though Elliot wouldn’t have been surprised if there wasn’t a few monstrous mom armor, or fabulous fiancé battle suit hidden away in his father’s designs. She supported their efforts the whole way; working both as medic at home, and stalwart ally for them in the treacherous world of politics. When peace came to the city she retired and that was the end of it. She just wanted to live the rest of her life in peace and solitude. For the most part his father accommodated her, up until the day she died, and then it was right back to the drawing board.

Was the mission, even a defunct mission, more important to him more than Mom? It was a question he struggled with for years. Even now his devotion to the mission unsettled him. He came to conclusion though that it was his father’s coping mechanism. From here till Elliot was finally forced to bury him. his father would design, build, and probably revolutionize the defense industry in the privacy of his basement.

His introspective journey led him to his father’s latest project. He couldn’t look past the implications. What it was meant for, why it would be needed. Was it just an example of doing something because Nicholas just felt he had to?

There were certain aspects of the bad old days Eliot missed, but they were few and far between. The thrill, that intoxicating adrenaline rush, an addiction he regretted and resisted. That could be controlled, handled, his longing for just how close he was with his mother and father during the bad times couldn’t. They were the one family whose lives got worse as things got better.

Nostalgia plagued him more than most of his generation.

He looked to the new armor, had his father even tested it out? His fingers hovered over the helmet coming ever so close to just picking it up. His line of thinking progressing with every passing second. A quick jaunt around the city, for old time sake he told himself. He’d test it out, get the feeling out of his system, and probably make his dad happy to boot.

Considering his other hand was still clenched around the wine bottle he had all the reason he needed why that was a terrible idea. He was being silly; it was just kid’s stuff, something he and the city and had grown out of. Elliot poured himself a final glass and lifted it towards the armors direction.

“To nostalgia.” Eliot toasted before he forced himself to turn away and banish any other thoughts from his head.

*****

Douglass wasn’t the brightest of sorts but every so often synapses would alight and grant the burly man a spark of insight. It came to him as he dutifully followed the Doctor through the heart of the city, or at least attempted to. Saturday was the height of the Anniversary weekend and the streets reflected it. Even for a gator of Douglass’ stature, wading through a veritable sea of people proved a challenge, and the poor doctor following behind could only move at a snail’s pace. As such inspiration struck the brute. “Is today really the best day to do this Professor?” He didn’t like questioning the doctor as he felt it was a waste of the good man’s time. He always felt he would see the answers as obvious if he was even half as brilliant as the doc. “I mean, not to question, but aren’t there just too many people?” He said, politely making his way through the milling crowd. Douglass would smile and was happy to note most were quick to make way once they saw he was in a hurry. Gentle dullard that he was it didn’t occur to him that his looks took him farther than his manners.

“You’re not incorrect Douglass. I could possibly manage the same on a less busy day, and it would certainly increase our progress. However there is one quality that such a crowd provides.” To illustrate whatever point he was attempting to make the good doctor began to dig into his bag. “Oh dear, it seems I do struggle with these dramatic reveals, a moment Douglass.” The wiry man said feeling flush in his cheeks as he struggled to procure the item from his bag.

Douglass nodded though still didn’t quite understand. What was the point of making it harder on themselves? Still questions aside it was a nice day, and even if the doc hadn’t needed his help he’d likely be out today, and if they kept along the route they’d at least get to see some of the parade. As Douglass rose to his tip toes to catch sight of what floats may be headed down the next street over Mutatio revealed his device with a flourish.

“Is that the thingy?” Douglass said taking a glance back. The doctor shuddered but didn’t correct him.

“Yes and I do believe it is time we used the crowd to our advantage.”

****

The sound of the television was an unwelcome one. Along with nostalgia, stories of grandfather, and the occasional bout of depression, the annual Saturday hangover was all part of the festivities. While the windowless workshop spared him the torturous light of the sun, there were some things that just couldn’t be avoided. One of course was that no matter how much his father had imbibed the night before he would always be a morning person.

“I will gladly hop into that armor of yours if you can just ignore the parade this year.” Elliot groaned burying himself under the covers that lined the surprisingly comfortable pull out bed. There were proper beds in the floor above but given how much he drank the young man didn’t trust himself on the stairs.

“And you so used to love the things when you were little.” His father noted with disappointment.

“That was before I realized there was approximately 2 minutes of entertainment in a four hour display.” Attempting to burrow under the sheets for some scant protection from the overly cheery announcers describing the beauty of overly adorned go carts traipsing at 5 mph. He pressed his ears tight against his head to no avail.

“Well despite you not being in the festive spirit I can still enjoy a bit of tradition.”

“Can you enjoy that bit of tradition on mute?”

“Without your whining it wouldn’t have the same atmosphere.” The old fox chuckled and Elliot resigned himself to a morning of such.

Call it instinct, call it experience, but Elliot could tell without his father saying anything that something was wrong. Ignoring the throbbing in his head he tossed aside the covers walked to where his father was now watching the screen.

What should have been a garish display of civic pride was quickly turning into reenactment of some of the darker days of the ‘bad times.’ Up and down the parade route scores of people were hijacking and at times setting the floats ablaze. Perhaps far more unsettling was how quiet the rioters were. There was no shouting of slogans, no angry chants, just boring methodical anarchy.

“They’re being controlled.” His father stated without looking away from the screen. Elliot didn’t question it. While he liked to consider his instincts sharp, even if dulled by a few years of normalcy, his experience was nothing compared to his dad’s.

The older fox tapped a finger to his lips in thought. Elliot could tell he was thinking through every would be thug with a lazer rifle or would be city conqueror he had encountered over his lengthy career as the ‘Gold Standard’.

After a moment he snapped his fingers and smugly grinned. “Master Cerveau, we had a few run-ins oh,” That grinned turned into a wince as the number of years became apparent, “well it was before your time anyway. Had this thing for mind control.”

“Retiree back for revenge?”

His father waved it off dismissively. “Unless he’s orchestrating this from a nursing home I’d rather doubt it. He was up in years back when I was your age.” This caused his brow to furrow. “That technology is under lock and key with the council, no positive applications for it, well none that didn’t violate several civil liberties.”

“Probably just some guy who rediscovered the science behind it. Surprised it doesn’t happen more often to be honest.”

His father nodded but didn’t look all too sure of that response but whatever questions he had were dismissed as he continued to watch the action unfold. More seemed to join the merry band of miscreants as they worked in unison to bring down a Santa Claus float.

“No.” Eliot stated. Not in response to the Jolly old elf being deflated but to what he knew was coming.

“I didn’t say anything.” Nicholas stated defensively. Elliot positioned himself so he could look his father in the eye. It only took a second to spot what he was looking for.

“You can’t even fit in the suit anymore.” He said, bluntly pointing a finger at his father’s midsection to which Nicholas took some offense.

Noticeably sucking in his gut the older man stood. “I have no thoughts of doing so,”

“Good the police will handle it.”

“but if I did I have made necessary arrangements.”

“Oh god does the Gold armor have a beer belly now?” Elliot was joking but only partially. If his father was crafting entirely new armors just to collect dust, modifying old models didn’t seem so farfetched.

“Not that I am going to do anything,”

“Because the police are going to handle it.” Elliot again interjected, though he could already sense it was like trying to push back the tide.

Nicholas gave a token nod of agreement while rummaging through various lockers, shelving, and storage units. Tossing bits of equipment, old blueprints, and the occasional moldy rag out of his way before stumbling upon whatever he was searching for.

“Still, you know when was the last time either of us gave this parade a visit, that official seal of approval?” Nicholas questioned, already trying out his excuse. Elliot was already in the process of accepting his father’s actions but wanted to see how far he would go.

“Think it was still a teenager.” Elliot said dryly, only perking a brow once his father had found what he was looking for. Despite the technical apparatus that were attached to it, it was unmistakably a girdle. His father favored him with only a slightly ashamed look.

“We live in peaceful times, over indulgence is a just a side effect we must deal with.”

“mmhmm.” There would be no stopping him and Elliot wouldn’t try. Even though Nicholas was getting up there in age if backed by the police this situation should barely take ten minutes. The city would appreciate it, the crowds would love it, and it would likely end this weekend on a high note. There was only one catch.

“You know what would go over really well?”

“No.” Elliot stated before the words were barely out of his father’s mouth.

“I can’t believe I raised such a wet blanket.”

“It’s your own rule. One stays behind to provide additional intel. Mom’s not around anymore and given your current state,” he said with a pointed look at the girdle, “I think it’s wise that you have someone looking out for you.”

Nicholas couldn’t very well argue this, especially since it allowed him to indulge without a hint of guilt, still there no denying that hint of longing.

“Well I’d love to have you out there.”

It was the direct appeal that held the most sway with Elliot. When his father beat around the bush it was so much easier to dismiss him. He hesitated in his answer before finally shaking his head. “It’d be overkill.” Elliot said without much conviction. “Besides if your fat ass can’t handle it the new Dynamo armor’s right here.”

His father couldn’t very well argue that either, but he could tell it was only a matter of time. Badgering his son would do nothing. Leading from the front however might have some merit.

“Alright, you know the monitoring devices. Standard take down protocol. Fast and easy, should be back before lunch.”

******

The good Doctor watched the scene unfold with mixed feelings. Watching the people scatter as those under his control ran amuck filled him with no joy. The red panda had given precise orders, only general chaos and a hint of property damage, they were to cause no actual injuries. In addition aside from some token resistance he wanted none to directly engage the police. It wasn’t as efficient as it could be. With Cerveau’s device he could literally ask them to lay down their lives and they would without a word. It would certainly give him more time to do what needed to be done but his actions in the end were for all of their benefits. The citizens of Archimedes had suffered far too long for him to add significantly to their sorrows.

He even tried to console the massive Douglass as a beloved cartoon character was brought low by the mob. “It isn’t very pretty, but it could be a good deal worse, now are your friends where they need to be?”

Douglass didn’t take his eyes away from the float but did nod. “All at the council building though they’re not going to be able to get past the security there.”

“Not remotely an issue my friend.” He pulled Douglass along away from the chaos. Joining the crowd as they hurried away from the scene and passed by the oncoming police cruisers who were headed toward the scene. Douglass gave an especially nervous glance at them. As someone who ran afoul of the law in the past he wasn’t eager to be on their radar again.

“You needn’t worry dear Douglass.” The doctor said as he fiddled with his sphere, it already pulsed with power, a dull repeated rhythm that glowed with a deep shade of magenta. With another press the pulse’s pace increased and its shade change to nearly pink. “The second stage is already in motion, and we shall be the last thing on the mind of the police.”

****

Lindsey’s head throbbed. It had been hard to focus all day, and considering just how little attention her job required it was saying a lot. If she was smart she would have just called it a day, but it was too late for anyone to take her shift and the facility always needed two people on file. The petite pit-bull pressed her hands against her forehead as if sheer force of will would drive the pain away.

“Hey, I think you might need this.” The only other person in the facility smiled down at her and offered her a cup of coffee. Nick was a new hire fresh out of college and looking for the best way to pay off his student loans as soon as possible. Government facility that was as demanding as watching paint dry seemed to fit the bill. He was fit, sporting short cropped brown hair, and best of all hadn’t been worn numb by the job just yet. He was a feline, though not the obnoxious sort and his black and white tuxedo style fur made him appear dapper even in casual dress. Lindsey wasn’t afraid to admit she liked him.

“You’re a lifesaver.”

“What can I say, makes me feel more important than the rest of this.” He slumped in his chair propping up his feet. The monitoring equipment wasn’t picking up anything unusual, not that it ever did, Lindsey suspected it stopped working years ago and no one had quite caught on. Though there was that one time…the sharp pain that racked her brain felt like someone had stabbed her right between the eyes. Her coffee splattered across the linoleum floor as she clutched at her head. The pain fading a heartbeat later but she found herself exhausted.

Nick smiled in that way that always put her at ease. She was really glad to have landed this shift. Some of the others took their job as a matter of life or death. It was good to be paired with someone on the same wavelength was a godsend most nights. But even Nick’s cute lopsided fanged smile wasn’t enough to ebb the pain this night.

“Perhaps coffee isn’t enough.” He said partially joking but empathetic toward her plight. She nodded dully and made her way toward the woman’s bathroom. Her shift had just begun and it was already too much. She thought about finding one of the many abandoned rooms and just resting her head for the rest of her shift.

She could barely find her footing as she stumbled down the hall, the headache was so agonizing she would swear her vision was blurring. Lindsey practically crumpled against her locker hoping to find something for her headache, but instead of grabbing for pills she found something somewhat more appealing.

There was her unused side arm. Standard issue for the facility though it had never been needed in all the time that she worked there. Lindsey stopped bothering to wear it as it made her uncomfortable, but as she ran a fingertip over the rubber grip she felt her headache lessen. As if by magic she knew how to make the headache go away entirely.

Logically it made no sense, she knew that, but at the same time she couldn’t help herself. Nick smiled once again on her return, only having a moment of surprise before the gun retorted twice with resounding finality. He’d never know why and Lindsey scarcely knew either to be honest. His body slumped to the ground spasming and with cruel detachment she put another bullet into his chest.

No she didn’t understand but it did feel right.

Somewhere in the back of her mind the rational part of her mind screamed at her but it was dismissed; the distant mental protests little more than a gnat buzzing in her ear.

The doors were a relic, never meant to be opened unless a miracle occurred, and yes her thoughts told her a miracle had occurred when the master had arrived. The Master! How could she have forgotten? The master’s will no doubt. She gleefully stood over the forlorn and ancient console and punched in the code. The light above the worn and rusted doors flashed green and slowly drew themselves open.

Immediately the room was bathed in a pink light. The only safety the rest of the world had from the remains of Archimedes. She should have been terrified at this prospect, horrified over what she had done. Instead she exited the facility and stood before the massive pink wall that contained the once prosperous city. Soon the wall would fall and her master would have need of her no matter how much that voice in the back of her head screamed.

*****

“Boss? Boss?” Douglass shook the frail professor as gently as he could. Sweat perspired down his forehead in concentration as he clutched the pulsing sphere. Eventually Aaron looked up and favored the lout with a gentle smirk.

“I do apologize, it does take a bit more effort because…well it would be hard to explain, needless to say our back up has arrived and we are ready to begin.
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