When It’s Over: Part 4

“Rocket,” the man said, “I am here for your execution.”

Joe landed in the lot, facing the giant. As he looked up, he wished he’d brought heavier weaponry. He had a bad feeling he wouldn’t be bringing this guy down with a solid punch, or even the now weaponized sonics.

He took a breath. Maybe he’d get lucky. For now he’d try to talk the giant into surrender, or at least into leaving.

“How about we postpone the execution for a little while? I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask you, and maybe you’ve got a few questions you’d like to ask me.”

The giant raised his arm, the one with the black bracer, and said, “No, you will die now.”

Colors swirled around the bracer. Suspecting he didn’t want to find out what that bracer did first hand (even if he did feel a degree of technical curiosity), he said, “Wait, at least give me your lineage and the reason for my execution, so I that I can know whether or not you’re worthy to face me.”

The giant snarled. “Worthy? Worthy? You dare to consider even the possibility that you might outrank me in purity? I’m the creation of the second lineage of Magnetus the Purifier, the lineage of Kocratus, the lineage that learned the language of the Ancient of Ancients, the lineage that eradicated the first lineage of Magnetus when they were Corrupted, and the lineage whose servants stand first among all servants of the Abominator civilization!”

The giant seemed to stand a little taller. “Now tell me little warrior, who do you serve? No one of significance I would wager.”

“Before I tell you that, what about the Corruption of the Second Genetic Replicator of Kocratus when the smallest servants of the first lineage changed the second tube of the replicator, requiring Kocratus to destroy an entire line of descendants?”

The giant turned red in the face, and Joe wondered if he’d gone too far, but the giant let his hands fall to his sides, clenching his fists, but not attacking.

“That was a baseless falsehood! The third lineage of Magnetus spread that rumor only to cause scandal and weaken the first lineage! When I tell you the true reasons for the destruction of that gene line you’ll understand how worthless that ridiculous lie was…”

When the creature reached the three minute mark in his explanation, Joe smiled within his helmet. He’d seen Lee hold up an Abominator battleship for half an hour by trotting out this particular argument. It was as if all the Abominator lineages thought it important to turn their AI’s into fanatic windbags armed with every argument for the superiority of their own creators.

That thought brought Joe back to the earlier question. Who was this guy? He looked familiar, but not like any of the Abominator servants Joe had seen.

Whoever this giant was or had been, Joe felt sure he’d known him as a man.

And if that was true the fact that he was now sounding like a typical Abominator AI was disturbing.

The giant ranted and raved, but he paused, tilting his head upward and staring at the sky for a moment. Then he started talking again, but Joe knew who it was.

* * *

Four months earlier, back in the middle of May, Joe sat in his office. He’d rented a small one on the second floor of one of the office buildings downtown. His was next to Dykema Tailors. They were nice enough, and too busy to be nosy.

He was grateful for that as circumstances kept “Joe Vander Sloot, Consulting Engineer” (or so said the block letters on the window of his door) out of the office more often than any normal consultant could be and still pay rent.

Joe felt grateful the clients he kept continued to come back, and pay his rates–which under Giles’ tutelage he’d managed to increase substantially.

Staring at the designs of the machine that he’d just received in a manila envelope, Joe understood why. According to the phone conversation he’d had, the company’s engineers couldn’t understand why the machine cost so much in maintenance and downtime. The machine was supposed to create plastic tubes used in medical equipment, but spent enough time not working that they were considering a complete redesign.

From the plans alone, the solution seemed obvious enough. He could reduce the number of moving parts by nearly a quarter in one section. That alone might solve their problems, but he felt fairly sure he could reduce the machine’s size by a third with a more drastic solution.

On one level, it wasn’t unusual, but it still surprised him that graduates from Ivy League schools couldn’t see what he, a graduate of the far less prestigious Grand Lake State College, did.

He began writing down his ideas on the legal pad he kept next on his desk, drawing basic versions of the new plan.

Midway through, a man stepped through the door. Joe thought he looked like he was in his early twenties. He had pale, blond hair, and blue eyes. The man’s cheekbones were a little stretched, reminding Joe a little bit of concentration camp victims he’d seen during the War.

This man wasn’t anywhere near as far gone as some of them, but he hadn’t been eating enough. His ragged blue jeans and faded winter jacket hinted that he’d been hungry for a long time.

Joe wondered if he was on drugs, but didn’t think the man looked like a hippie.

“Excuse me, sir,” the man said after he shut the door. “You’re the Rocket, and I need your help.”

Even though every part of his body wanted to fight, Joe kept his voice calm. “I think you must be confused. I’m a consulting engineer. I keep odd hours and get called out to factories as I”m needed, but it’s not because I’m a superhero.”

The man smiled faintly. “You don’t have to pretend,” he said. “I’m Mark Simmons. I was in Red Lightning’s legions. They called me Foresight back then. I’m not a match for the Mentalist, but I can see into the future, or at least I can when I have the power elixir.”

Joe kept his face calm, hoping the Mentalist might show up out of nowhere. He’d done it the last time someone had shown up knowing his name.

The man paused, tilting his head, and staring at the corner of Joe’s office for a moment before continuing to talk.

“I’m here,” he said, “because I’m on the run. Someone out there is searching for people who can develop powers, and they’re not human.”

* * *

Joe could see Mark’s face in the monster’s, and remembered how the man had disappeared after leaving them with a few clues about where to look for the creatures hunting him.

As he began to wonder when Mark had been caught, he realized, the creature had stopped talking.

The giant stared at him, teeth bared. “A trick,” he said. “This is a trick!”

19 thoughts on “When It’s Over: Part 4”

  1. Huh. I think I just wrote a flashback inside a flashback. One of these days, I should try to see how many I can nest inside each other and still have the story make sense.

  2. That’s weird. First there was the story, then Draven and Willcocks said something, then the signal from y’all’s universe went a little fuzzy. It’s back now though, but a little more squiggly than before. Ah well, probably nothing.

    This AI thing of the Abominators reminds me of the BattleTech Clans, who were all about their lineages and having their genes passed down properly through tubegrown kids.

    So here we go, Rocket I versus Grey Giant I.

  3. The abominators have been destroyed, and at least one of their creations is left and looking for revenge. It should be very interesting how this plays out.

    Also the flashback within a flashback was kind of neat, and show how similar Nick and Joe are.

  4. At first I was sad I caught up but this is as good as any series I have read and I get to see it in progress instead of waiting for publishers.

  5. And now Joe felt guilty for not following up on that lead, but was glad that the abominators tended to use lots of extra verbage to defend their lineage.

    Meanwhile, Jim worked frantically to remove the extra words from the following phrases:

    but but the giant let his hands

    Magnetus spread that rumor to only to cause

  6. Wow. I’ve finally caught up yet still can’t believe it! I started reading based on a friend’s recommendation in January this year and it has not only became an addiction but also perhaps my favourite series 🙂 . I have nothing but praise for you Jim and I thank you for taking your time to create this world I have become lost in.

  7. Notto: thanks for the corrections. Fixed now.

    Djkblue: I think the major good point about being caught up is commenting while most people are still reading the comments and might respond.

    Christopher: there are some definite similarities and hopefully some very noticeable differences.

    PG: I always thought Battletech looked interesting, but never got involved with it. I had no idea that was part of the culture.

  8. The Clans are made up of a self-exiled bunch of techno-throwbacks (which in this case makes them more advanced than the war-ravaged Inner Sphere). Resources are so precious that they have this weird bidding process to determine amongst themselves and the enemy which resources they will use to take a goal. Too many forces and you’re perceived as less honorable, which makes you less of a candidate for a Blood Name (a last name earned in a trial by combat against similar candidates who share the same female genetic parent). Too few forces and you lose, which makes you seem bad.

    To be without a Blood Name is to not be able to pass your genes. Get too old and they assign you to train the younger generations. Get way too old and they stick you in an unit of old, unarmored infantry (unlike their normal armored infantry capable of taking on Battlemechs). Those guys are basically just to go out, make the enemy waste time, and die.

    The ultimate goal is that legacy thing, including getting a passage in each clan’s epic tale, the Remembrance. Heck, in at least one case I read about them fighting a battle so that one clan could take possession of the genetic information of one batch of warriors.

  9. I guess one of the problems that the Abominators had with their AIs was ‘motivation’…

    I’ve guessing that giving them a “cultural history”, and getting them to compete, was their answer. Also, having your minions compete, and not like each other too much, seems to be a popular subordinate-control strategy among bad guys. Maybe to use up their energy so they don’t decide to conspire against you?

    You might wonder if the ‘power juice’ getting out to a larger population was a ploy by _someone_ to help them locate those who could be made into tools, like “Mind Titan” (to invent a name) here?

  10. Well, I caught up again. I should probably check LoN more often, but there’s so much else to read. The problem of the internet.
    Anyway, this looks like it’s going to be interesting. I’m wondering if we’re every going to read the story of actually fighting the Abominators in the future. That would be interesting, but probably very long.

    1. There definitely is a lot out there, and some of it’s surprisingly good.

      The good point of reading a big chunk at once is that you get the fun part of a an archive trawl all over again.

      As for the Abominators… Well, there are definite plans to do flashbacks to specific parts of that story. It would probably be a novel of its own if I ever decide to write the whole thing out.

  11. I note that Magnetus the Purifier was mentioned by the Space Soldier Barbie accessory in “Cassie” part 19. He was one of the same faction of Abominators who created the DNA that Cassie was partly cloned from.

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