Over the team radio channel, Bullet muttered, “Give me the okay and I’ll turn the freak into Swiss cheese.”
Len jumped over a pile of snow, landing less than ten feet behind Master Martian. “You know the policy and you know why.”
In October of 1954, the Feds came to an unofficial agreement with the superheroes of the period, agreeing to leave them alone as long as the body count didn’t get too high. My grandfather had told me about the negotiations. As the highest-profile team of the day, the Heroes’ League had to be there.
“Stupid policy,” Bullet let loose a barrage of force bullets that hit Master Martian’s shield which erupted into yellow, blue, and white explosions, but didn’t fall.
Within the fishbowl helmet, sweat poured down Master Martian’s face. Len launched forward, the systems in the suit’s legs making a grinding noise followed by a snap as he left the ground, putting him in reach of Master Martian’s body.
With one punch of his Armory suit, Len hit the Master Martian’s shield and this time it fell apart. Despite his skin’s greenish color and the fleshy antenna on his head, Master Martian looked at least as human as an alien in a Star Trek series. The snarl on his face showed his frustration as clearly as it would have with any other person.
He didn’t have long to feel angry. Even as he tried to recreate his shield, knitting threads of glittering mental energy around his body, small beads of force hit him, forcing him down to the sidewalk, and shattering what little shield he had in another explosion of light.
Bullet landed next to Master Martian, creating more yellow, glowing cones above him, shouting, “Don’t even try to get into our heads. The second you do, I’ll kill you. If you can read my mind, you know I mean it.”
A dark, slim object resembling a small crossbow bolt, arrow, or dart flew between Bullet’s cones of force, puncturing Master Martian’s suit. He slumped, sprawling on the sidewalk and snow-covered lawn.
Bullet gave a nod and smiled at whoever was off to Len’s right side, seemingly outside his peripheral vision. A voice talked over the scene, reminding me of a narrator in a movie, “You don’t remember me catching up with you and you don’t remember seeing who threw that dart. Bullet, whoever did throw it did the world a service. Master Martian was a dangerous alien. Armory, this was a senseless death. Modern heroes are falling away from the ideals you hold. It’s time to retire. The Rocket’s making devices for other heroes. You should be getting paid for this too.”
I stopped my implant from playing the scene back as Armory and Bullet began to argue about what happened and where the dart came from. Instead, using my implant to check Double V’s database, I searched on Bullet, Armory, and Master Martian, learning what I’d just seen. The first Master Martian died in February of 1982, killed by a mysterious dart, an event that prompted an argument between Bullet and Armory, bringing about the end of the Brew City Protectors.
No one ever figured out who threw the dart and while people did analyze the poison, it was nothing they’d seen before. It wasn’t poisonous to humans even if it was to Master Martian, whatever he was.
Having read that, I checked out a few more of Len’s memories. There were too many to go through them all, but the ones that I did explore showed him setting up his first labs, making connections, and selling to anybody with money as the first priority. Whenever he wavered, the voice whispered, repeating the line in his head again.
I couldn’t find another command, but I didn’t want to go through all the memories right now either. With Master Martian’s death, we had a few directions to investigate: Bullet, Len Jones, the dart, and if we were desperate, we might even try to find the second Master Martian. He might know something about why someone would want to kill the first one.
Another thought struck me. In the middle of the battle near Higher Ground, Victor had told Rook that the Artificers had a site on Mars that the Abominators may have excavated. It was a long shot, but that might have something to do with Master Martian. It wasn’t as if I’d ever heard of any real Martians. People were still arguing about whether or not Mars had even simple organisms.
I shook my head. That was a last resort option.
Then I let myself become aware of the room around me again. Everyone but Tara appeared to be doing what I was—checking out everyone else’s response to what they’d seen.
Daniel caught my eye, “I let everyone without an implant follow along as Cassie looked at Len’s memories. It was easier to give her privacy than it would have been with you.”
I nodded. We were a little too connected. I looked over at Yoselin. She had an implant from the Human Ascendancy or the Abominators themselves. “How did it go for you?”
She frowned, “It was… worrisome. Whoever gave the command spoke only a little and changed the course of that man’s life. I wonder how many more there are like him?”
Next to Daniel, Tara had her eyes closed, but as Yoselin spoke, she opened them, “If it’s that easy, there must be quite a few.”