AWOL Part 2

(posted Friday, February 18, 2005)

"Holy Crap..." Bestial Boy peered into the hole in the wall. Chunks of concrete littered the sublevel floor. The dark hole looked like a maw of some bizarre beast, with sprawling teeth of steel girders, chunks of concrete, rock, and black earth.

"Da, Zach...", muttered Khrushchev. Nikita reached out and touched a twisted girder. With broken english, Nikita spoke quietly, "He is capable off many things, but this demonstration is distressing most."

"That..." a strong voice came from behind them, "Is quite an understatement." People's Blade strode across the floor of the parking garage towards the two with an authoritative step. Soviette followed behind holding some charts on a clipboard.

"Jesus, he just completely freaked out." Bestial Boy stepped back from the hole. "What the hell could have made Chug bug out like that?"

"That is just part of my concern, Comrade Zach." Fei Li, looked up at Khrushchev, her deep dark eyes narrowed a bit, "Nikita, I wish your report be circulated to the officers and commissars. We will also need to forward this to Cuban, Russian, and Chinese intelligence agencies as soon as possible. Are you certain there was no record of the event?"

"Da," Khrushchev nodded once sharply. "I am unable in retrieving information from our surveillance equipment. What I report earlier stands. At 0130 there was reported electrical surge in section of city. But at 0140 power was restored on the grid. Paragon city power utilities have been unable to address my queries further. All surveillance equipment failing during time. And backup generators offline also."

"How could that be so?" People's Blade looked at Khrushchev inquisitively, "We have equipment for such failures, yes? In case of such an event?"

Khrushchev rubbed his chin, "Is thinking that outage from other source. Is something like pulse field generator. Special equipment for passing security by shutting down electrical systems. What is odd is how such equipment not also failing intruders."

"You mention this in the preliminary report," Fei Li, wrinkled her brow, "If they used something to shut down our power, then how did they get in without force?"

"I not quite sure, Commissar." Khrushchev walked a few paces to the hole, "Am thinking intruders used other equipment to bypass scrambled electronic systems. But same equipment being also affected by pulse field..." his voice trailed. "Am not sure how such things possible, but evidence is leading to conclusion. Doors to base were opened using normal systems, not being forced."

"And this happens at such a time the majority of our teams are on patrol," Fei Li swung towards Bestial Boy and then looked back at Khrushchev. "Some indication that our unexpected visitors knew who would be here and who would not?"

"Da," Khrushchev nodded, "am thinking we may have been under surveillance for some time. No scans have showed things so yet. I am needing time for more exhaustive tests."

"And Comrade Bestial Boy" Fei Li's foot prodded a rough metal sphere the size of a bowling ball. "You said you were playing some game with Comrade Chug? Some sort of 'dodge ball' game?"

"Yeah," Zach looked down a bit and continued sheepishly, "Got tired of the workout regimen with the free weights. So I thought I'd play a little game with Chug down in the basement parking lot. He throw it at me so I'd work on my reflexes avoiding being hit. And... well.. I'd throw it at him and he usually just stand there and take it on the head."

"Zachary," Soviette gasped, "how could you!"

"Come on!" Bestial Boy threw up his arms, "Its not like he would get hurt and he was having so much fun."

Khrushchev snorted, "Is quite true, comrade. Chug's skull thick like rock."

"Please," Fei Li shook her head, "I am thinking Comrade Zach has been in the company of Untermensch too long. I do not find this amusing." She glared at Khrushchev, "And I fear that we do not have to repeat our objections to individuals here and other comrades such as Ursa Major and Petrograd on the use of Chug for live target practice. I remember this other game of 'William Tell' quite recently enough." Her look softened, "And that is when you were attacked, Comrade Zach?"

"Yeah," Zach ran his hand through his rough, straggly, hair. "It was surreal. The power went out and everything was pitch black. And we heard this odd low pulsating hum after a few minutes. Along with the sounds of heavy metal thuds." Zach pursed his lips, "Chug just lost it. He just began whimpering. And I could barely make him out in the dark, but he was squatting down with his hands on his head rocking back and forth."

Zach's brow creased, "God, He just kept whimpering and saying, "The bad men are here. The bad men are here." Over and over." Zach pointed to the stairwell, "I just dusted up and went to the stairs to see if I could find out who was in the base. I got to the door and there were these guys in some sort of powered armor. Before I could do anything one of them pointed something at me and I blacked out."

"I am thinking it was some sort of neural impulse generator," Soviette glanced at the charts she was holding, "I did a thorough examination of Zachary, and he is all right physiologically and all toxicology tests were negative. It could have been something that induced unconsciousness, nothing chemical...but by what other means I don't know yet."

"Yeah, well it gave me a bit of a headache, Zach continued, "I woke up about 20 minutes later with the lights back on and that hole in the wall."

Fei Le, stepped closer to the hole and peered in. The hole extended far back and roughly turned upwards. "So this hole in the ground leading up to the outside was all that was found. And Comrade Chug was gone?"

"Yeah," Zach looked down and kicked the floor with his boots. "I think he just wigged out, punched a hole in the wall, dug a 40 foot tunnel as fast as he could up and out to the outside of the building. It's freaky, but I think he just ran like some cornered animal."

"I want you to go through the technical reports we have again." Fei Le paced a bit, "I want to see if you recognize the armor you saw from public and secret records we have on file. I want to know who would have this type of armored suits from all intellegence documents, including civil, criminal, military, and government organizations."

"Man," Zach sighed, "I just spent three hours going over those images."

"Then," Fei Li stood up in front of Bestial Boy with a hard look, "I suggest you redouble your efforts." She looked at Khrushchev and added sharply, "I also want you to determine how they shut down our defenses, and determine if we were under surveillance and for how long."

"Come on, comrade" Khrushchev threw his arm around Zach's shoulder, "We have much work to do and time is short." As the pair walked to the stairwell, Fei Le spoke, "Comrades, wait." Both Khrushchev and Bestial Boy stopped and looked back. Fei Le continued, "Someone has broken the tranquility of our home." People's Blade clenched her fists. "Someone has intruded into the sanctity of our house, and threatened the ones we hold dear. I want the slight against our house rectified. I want them found."

Fei Li quietly watched Khrushchev and Bestial Boy walk out of the parking level. "Jadwiga, I have something of great importance for you to do," People's Blade gently gripped Soviette's shoulder. "I have conferred with Natalya.. I fear that we have little idea of Chug's past. Even as a superhero for Russia, Natalya admitted state records of his activities were very lacking. There are years of his life simply missing with no record of where he was or what he had done. Even her contacts in the KGB were unable to fill in these gaps."

Fei Li's face clouded, "I think I may have understood the Chinese Ministry of State Security's efforts to have Five Year Plan and Function Five have these sessions of recorded conversations with Chug. I saw some of the reports, and dismissed them." She sighed, "It was too easy to see them as ramblings and drawings of a simple child. But not all of the reports have been forwarded to the Ministry of State Security." Fei Li nodded towards Soviette, "Jadwiga, I think it would be prudent to examine those reports again. And this time with someone with more of a clinical, diagnostic mind. I think there may be some clue in those papers and drawings about Chug's past, and maybe who our intruders were."

Fei Li quitely entered the stairwell leaving Soviette alone. Jadwiga brushed a stray strand of hair from her face and looked at the twisted hole gouged in the wall. "Chug..." she bit her lip, "what horrible fate has befallen you."