Underground Tower: Part 5

I didn’t need to explain the toxic waste comment, Daniel caught the gist of it from my head.

Got it, he said, but then I felt a pulse of worry from him. One more thing… They’ve got mental shields built into their suits, so I can’t get a read on what they’re thinking, but I did learn something. One of them jumped up and tried to grab me. I knew it was coming before he did, but still, I only barely got away. As he got close though, I got a flash of Rook talking about the armor. I heard one word, ‘stasis.’

In that moment, it came together. Rook might not have been able to come up with that on his own, but I’d heard him talk with Victor about an Abominator site on Mars—something Master Martian more or less confirmed was at least true in his universe. In the intervening year, Rook could have flown to Mars and ransacked the base.

The only problem with the idea was that I’d managed to damage one of the suits. If the suits’ materials were stuck in time, I couldn’t have hurt them. On the other hand, I’d hurt the faceplate and one of the joints—not one of the big plates.

Mulling this over in my head, I found the doorway and the elevator entrance, stepped into the stairwell, and began running up the stairs.

Still thinking about it, I stopped on the next floor up, pointed my head through the doorway, and saw another floor of tanks full of colored liquid with shelved suit parts in the process of being created.

I didn’t see Ana or any of the True’s mechs, however. Checking my HUD to confirm my assumption, I saw that Yoselin’s suit was above me. The concrete floors didn’t make it easy to tell exactly how far, but it was enough, I ran up the stairs to find them.

As I did that, another thought struck me. Of course, I’d managed to damage the joint and the faceplate. If you could stop time, it seems like it’d be a lot harder to do it on moving parts because then they wouldn’t move. As for the faceplate, it seemed likely that freezing the faceplate in time would result in not seeing anything through it.

It seemed like you might be able to mitigate that by having the stasis field flicker multiple times in a second, but if turning the field on and off cost a lot of power, you might not be able to do that.

Following the stairway upward as it turned around, I heard Daniel in my mind again, We’re on the floor below you. The True are following, but they can’t fly.

Cool, I thought back and made it to the door of the next floor and felt the hum of a huge machine through the floor. Checking my HUD, I saw that Yoselin was probably on the other side of the gray, metal door in front of me.

A quick check with my sensors gave me the expected picture of fuzzy shapes on the other side of the door. Connecting to Yoselin’s implant, I thought, What’s the situation? I think I’ve found you.

She responded with, A lot of True in mechs. They’re having an issue getting the teleporter powered up.

Talking over her, the Atoner’s voice came over the official comm channel that maybe we should have been using, “We’re in the basement. Where are you?”

I said, “Go down and you’ll get to a point where you can see into the basement. On the left is a kind of tower. Get to the top floor and go down or better, if you see a floor with a lot of people, that’s the one you hit. It’s probably the seventh. Also, they’re wearing powered armor. It’s tough. Faceplates and joints are weaker. If you’ve got something that can shatter stasis fields, use it. They’ve got them.”

Dr. Transylvania’s icon flickered and he asked, “Have any of you tried magic?”

“None of us can do it,” I readied myself to open the door, wondering if I should go through or wait for everyone else.

“A pity. I’d think that you’d pick it up if only for the flexibility,” he said, his voice ending the phrase in a rasp that left me wondering how differently undead lungs handled speech.

I was about to reply that some of us did use magic, but just not the group here today when I heard the same commanding voice that I’d heard before I entered the tower.

The Amethyst Archer, or whatever she called herself now, spoke with a voice that I could hear through the door, “Get it working now. I don’t care what you have to do.”

I didn’t have time to wait. I had to go through now and since the Rocket suit wasn’t great for stealth, I went with surprise. Smashing through the door, I heard the metal screech and saw it crumple as I went through. Throwing the door to the side, I stepped inside, finding myself in a room that seemed to be half-filled with grey metal boxes and thick cables that ran from the boxes to a square metal platform that might have been forty feet across either way.

People in Rook suits stood on either side of the platform, but none of them stood on it.

Ana’s mech, a red and black model, stood next to a dark-haired woman in a black suit who happened to be carrying a longbow—an odd combination made odder by the quiver on her back.

The Rook suited people nearest me turned in my direction, beginning to run toward me. As my heart beat more quickly, I wondered how I was going to handle these people. I’d survived fighting five or so downstairs, but there were more than 20 here.

Activating the rockets with the idea of flying over them, another thought struck me. Kee could manipulate time. I couldn’t use it as she could, but I might be able to disrupt Rook’s stasis field. It was just a question of how.

16 thoughts on “Underground Tower: Part 5”

    1. Speaking of Nick’s powers, I only started reading recently and there’s this thing I was wondering about. If Nick is becoming a pseudo-artificer, and mature artificers are supposed to be singular across all worlds, does that mean all Nick’s versions across the multiverse will eventually merge into a single person?

      1. That’s an excellent question that I’m in no way going to answer at this moment. That’s either for the series epilogue or maybe it’ll become relevant before the series ends.

  1. > it might be that freezing the faceplate in time might result in seeing only whatever light was going through.

    What a strange idea for someone science oriented.
    Freezing something in time probably contradicts physics as we know it in the same way FTL travel does, but if it was possible, I figure the object would become a hard wall for all electromagnetic radiation, and would look like a perfect mirror regardless of the original appearance.

    1. It could well be. Ranging from the ansible to FTL, Legion uses a few fantasy science concepts (as does much science fiction). Nick’s limited by the writer and I didn’t think that one fully through.

      What I was trying to get at is that is that if you stopped the faceplate in time, you wouldn’t see anything through it.

      1. Always a danger when writing characters that are bigger nerds than the author 😀

        That said, I love this story. This is a first time something stood out to me as implausible even in a fictional world, as the wording implies to me something other than the current outside world could be seen through the faceplate, and that defies the nature of light as energy traveling through space.

        Regardless of Rockets internal monologue though, I wonder why Rook put a transparent faceplate in the design instead of integrating some screens on the inside of the helmet and cameras outside. He might even be able to use implants instead of screens.

        1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I tend to assume imperfection as this is basically the first draft and appreciate people pointing out mistakes.

          As for your question… It’s because when the suit you’re wearing has electronic devices between you and the world, it’s inconvenient if it fails because you’re blind. And chances are good that it will fail if powerful objects constantly punch it.

          Though I haven’t gone into detail, the faceplate isn’t huge and can stand up to tons of force. So it’s fine with normal use except for the most powerful supers that you mostly won’t meet–except in this story.

          The Rocket suit (and Rook’s own costume) have small eyeholes for the same reason. That’s arguably the better design, but if the screen inside goes out, you can’t see as much.

          1. Oh yeah, that’s definitely a major consideration.

            Btw, I was thinking some more about the consequences of stopping/slowing down time. What would happen if the stasis field doesn’t completely stop time, but instead just slows it down a lot? Would it then act like something with impossibly high refraction index and trap almost all light inside via total internal reflection? If so, it might look almost completely black with light only capable of escaping out of it at almost exactly the right angle to the surface. And if the rate of leakage is small enough, that could potentially make it an extremely dense energy storage device, which would also serve as a powerful bomb if the stasis field got broken/turned off.

            #nerdshowerthoughts

    2. Btw, wanted to edit formatting, but can’t find a way to register, and it doesn’t allow me log in via wordpress without having an account here first. Am I doing something wrong?

      1. It’s not you. There’s something I’d need to set up to allow you to log in as this is a self-hosted WordPress blog as opposed to a blog hosted by WordPress.

  2. I lost track of reading this during the pandemic (toward the end of the vampire arc) and just blazed through it all in the last couple days. Such fun characters and terrible realization that now I have to wait for more. Glad you are still at it.

    1. I’ll be at it until the end of the story (and won’t stop writing after that).

      I’m glad you’re back. That’s said, it’s interesting how the pandemic affected things. On the one hand, I know that some readers dropped off or stopped commenting, but also, I know that some people had more time to read than they wanted…

  3. I’d’ve thought that something being frozen in time would also be frozen in space, but that’d probably require an arbitrary fixed reference point (frozen compared to the planet? frozen compared to the sun? frozen compared to the galaxy? the cluster? the universe?). Frozen compared to the user seems to be working well in this case.

    1. One thing I remember strongly from physics is how my teacher made a point of constantly reminding us of how important it was to decide on your point of reference.

      In this case, frozen relative to the user is definitely the most useful option.

      1. The way I see it, the two most sensible options would be:

        1) The object’s internal time is frozen, but from the outside it is just a very solid, yet movable chunk of pure semi-indestructible madness.

        2) It’s fixed to the source of the stasis field, if the generator is outside the stasis bubble it generates. That would actually be really fun to play… I mean experiment with.

        3) It could retain it’s original velocity vector and become immune to outside forces attempting to redirect it. This I include just for kicks, since that would definitely break most fundamental concepts in physics, and would almost certainly randomly destroy planets by accident within minutes of their scientists discovering it. 😀

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