When It’s Over: Part 9

Joe decided to put Lee on hold with a click, and took Larry’s call.

“Rocket?” Larry’s voice came over the suit’s internal speakers. “I don’t know what half this stuff does, and I can’t turn off the translator, but this suit’s got amazing weapons. You want me to hit him again?”

The Nexus struggled to pull its legs out of the pile. It wasn’t going easily. He barely seemed to move one piece of concrete when another fell back into the hole he’d created.

Plus, something about the giant’s balance seemed off.

“Follow my lead,” Joe said, and hung up.

Because not everyone had radio phones, he could only hope Freddie would do the same.

One of these days, he told himself, he’d design the League communicator watches like Dick Tracy used in the comics.

For now, he had more pressing issues to deal with. He pointed his arms at the Nexus, shouting, “Don’t move. We’re all armed, and we can hurt you. You know this.”

The giant looked up toward where Joe hovered, and then down, past him toward Larry, and where Joe bet that Freddie stood.

When it saw Larry, it shuddered.

Joe stared at the creature’s armor. Cracks spread from half a dozen pockmarks and a hole in the abdomen. Larry’s new armor’s weapons had hurt the thing.

His plans to disassemble the armor stopped cold as he thought about what that meant. Wherever that armor came from, they were experienced at fighting Abominator technology, and designed their weapons to compensate for it.

He couldn’t know for sure, but judging from the wear, the armor Larry was wearing was his alternate’s day to day armor.

It was an unnerving thought.

Not that he had time to think. He had to talk, and do it now.

“Mark, you need to take control. Simply preventing it from hurting us isn’t enough. Swapping out the Rhino’s armor with armor that has the potential to kill you isn’t enough either.”

The Nexus had stopped struggling with the concrete, and stared at Joe.

“I know why they chose this device for you, and I think you do too. It’s the ideal compliment to your own foresight—which I can only think you’re not using. Use it now. If you’re anything like the people who can predict the future that I know, you can see all the side effects of each of our actions, and follow them.

“I made a phone call a few minutes ago. Follow the possible consequences, and don’t stop with the most likely.”

He clicked back to the NASA connection, and turned off the external speakers. “Lee, are you there?”

Lee spoke without the usual edge. “Joe, our deal didn’t cover this, but let’s call it a freebie. You want me to appear, I’ll step through. Remember, this is your world, and you might not like what happens next.”

For this to work, Joe knew he had to seriously consider it.

When could he risk Lee’s people’s attention? It was worth it if they had no other realistic chance to win. Despite what Larry had done, Joe doubted one suit of armor would be enough. They’d hurt it, but not much. He could see the cracks in the armor smoothing out, and the pockmarks with them.

If the creature won here, what would the Xiniti do? He didn’t know them well yet, but their orders were to keep anything dangerous to their civilization from leaving Earth, even if it meant burning the planet to a cinder.

From what he’d seen of them, they’d do it without hesitation.

That was worth the risk.

Ahead of him, the Nexus twisted, pulling its legs from from the pile of concrete. The creature took to the air and aimed for him, closing.

“Lee,” he said.

Before he finished the sentence, he felt a telepathic connection forming, and an infinity of realities appeared in his mind, all of them a little different, but in a significant portion, he said Lee’s name, and asked him to appear. In many of these realities he did appear, and the Nexus died. Sometimes it went harder, sometimes easier, but in the majority of infinities (if that made any sense) he died quickly.

Sometimes after this, and sometimes before the battle was even over, other things began to fade into reality, disquieting, disturbing forms much like the serpentine shape Joe saw Lee wear when he found him.

In most of those futures, humanity died soon after, and the ones where they lasted longer than that were worse.

He didn’t finish the sentence.

The connection began to fray as the vision ended, and in this universe, the Nexus disappeared into swirling light, different pieces of him fading from view as he flew.

By the time he would have reached Joe, nothing was left but words that had been telepathically delivered to his mind, “It’s over. I’m in control.”

Joe found himself hovering above an empty, dirt lot, staring upward at thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage from when the Nexus hit the highway after Larry shot him.

Over the NASA line, Lee said, “So what do you think, was it a lucky break, or exactly how it was supposed to go?”

* * *

I stared at the report. It wasn’t much like what I remembered Grandpa telling me at all. He’d reduced everything to a paragraph.

“Fought amalgam of Mark Simmons, the prescient who warned us of the Abominators, and an Abominator AI warrior humaniform. Fought it with the assistance of Yellow Burrito, and the Rhino. The Rhino’s powered armor appears to have been swapped with an alternate version during the fight. The alternate appears to have been created to fight Abominator tech in some universe where Quebec is the dominant power in North America. Abominator construct was ultimately defeated by pushing Mark to assume control of the body. Lee suggests this may have been Mark’s goal. Simmons disappeared at the end of the fight. His location is currently unknown.”

I hadn’t fully understood the story at the time. Among other things, my grandpa hadn’t explained why Lee appearing instantly on Earth would cause the end of the world, but he’d hinted that Lee had enemies, and that it might attract their attention.

I checked the time on my phone, and wondered where Courtney was.

19 thoughts on “When It’s Over: Part 9”

  1. Hmmn. I can’t quite say I’m awed by my ability to update on time, but it’s better than I was doing a month ago.

    Anyway, this story’s not quite done. One more update before fully returning to the main storyline.

    1. Ofcourse this leaves open where such a powerfull prescient ( and former follower of red lightning) is hanging out.
      You’ve hinted at prescience being a trap before. Is that going to play a role soon?

  2. Hmm. The origins of Joe’s vision isn’t clear to me.

    Is this something that comes from his own abilities to visualise, related to his talent with machines, which presumably requires him to understand the complex interactions of how they might work? A sudden, maybe unique in his life, flash of insight? Can most anyone in this world experience what he did, given enough effort? Or, is this vision somehow due to some specific action of The Nexus? Or, is the reality mangling of The Nexus ‘leaking’, and allowing him to do this?

    Stories suffer from things being over-explained, but quite what is going on here is niggling at me. I feel a hint in a useful direction would be good. Wouldn’t Joe speculate on the source of the vision?

  3. Sorry, re-reading the story it looks as though the vision was a telepathic ‘sending’ from The Nexus. You could argue about making this clearer, maybe something before the start about it feeling like the mental contact from other psychics that Joe’s previously experienced? So, it was ‘bracketed’?

  4. So if I’m reading that correctly, Mark/Nexus simply disappeared after Mark regained control? The case write-up might include a sentence about that. Or maybe not; I guess Joe was in a hurry and not documenting things as well as he normally does.

  5. Every story you’ve read, heard, or watched influences your creations. This is what annoys me when somebody says “X totally stole that riff in song A from Y’s song B.” Most likely it was not stolen, but absorbed into the creator’s subconscious. If your subconscious uses bits and pieces from other works then those creators should be happy that they impacted you enough to hang around in the back of your mind for decades.

  6. I thought it read fine at this point.

    Just one typo:
    “I don’t know half this stuff does,” needs a ‘what’

  7. @Jim:

    In the previous update (Part 8 of this storyline)…

    “The bronze armor stopped, and voice came from it. It sounded almost like Larry’s, but not quite…

    ‘Je suis le Bronze Rhino!'”

    Is this an early thought of actually switching out Larry for an alternate version of himself?

    1. King G: It’s actually one of a few preset statements that alternate Larry had ready. I had a few others too, but didn’t end up using them.

      Notto/Matthew: Thanks for the typos.

  8. Andrul: For better or worse, influence isn’t really something you can escape. In many ways, I think it makes a story better rather than worse–depending on whether the writer takes them and adds something or just copies them wholesale and doesn’t really absorb them.

  9. “Among other things, my grandpa”

    I would get rid of the “my” in this sentence, and capitalize Grandpa.

    This is how you referenced him before:

    “I remembered Grandpa”

  10. Typo: I don’ t know much of the French spoke in Canada, so I may be wrong, but these sentence are wrong for a France-French

    “Je suis le Bronze Rhino!” => “Je suis le Rhino de Bronze”, same as “bronze medal” is “médaille de bronze”.
    “Le nom de Dieu!”=> “Nom de Dieu!”

    1. They’re supposed to be. Larry’s using a translating program, but it’s not supposed to be a good one. It would be better if I knew French and could make it wrong in a funny way.

  11. I had a little trouble with your passages in terms of “he”. It made sense upon re-reading a few times, but, well: “he said Lee’s name, and asked him to appear. In many of these realities he did appear, and the Nexus died. Sometimes it went harder, sometimes easier, but in the majority of infinities (if that made any sense) he died quickly.”

    In quick succession, ‘he’ has referred to Joe, then Lee, then the Nexus(?). Upon my initial reading, I thought “he died quickly” meant JOE died, but now I’m pretty sure it means the Nexus. It’s still a bit rocky with the later sentence “By the time he would have reached Joe” as THAT could refer to Lee, but again upon my second re-read, Nexus makes more sense. Damn pronouns.

    Also, reality is weird. Though I do find the idea of Quebec being the dominant power kind of amusing, narratively speaking. I guess after the British burnt down the White House in 1812 they set up shop, only to be deposed by the French or something.

    I guess we know what’s in one of the storage lockers now too – the alternate version Rhino armour. Wonder if Joe’s attempts at reverse engineering (because c’mon, he had to try) went anywhere.

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