You May Be Right...

From the Story Arc: Sparks!

Previous Story in the Arc: It's Still Rock n' Roll... by Petrograd (Thursday, June 01, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Only the Good Die Young by Petrograd (Tuesday, October 03, 2006)

(posted Saturday, June 24, 2006)

Two weeks in a library, 3 days of 'web-searching,' and 16 hours of 'ISP back-hacking,' (whatever that was, Waitron had taken care of it), and Petrograd had an address. The man was on the end of a high-density fiber-optic hardline streight from a CreyTech TX11000 server cluster. It took him fifteen minutes to find the line: streight through a hole punched in the back wall, it extended from Brickstown, through a patch of sewer, across several hundred arial towers, and on back into Crey's Folly as far as the eye could see.

11 snipers, 20-odd Rikti drones, and two wayward pigeons later, Ivan Ilych Derinsky was not a happy man, with various scorched patches and chunks out of his armor to back him up. He landed at the familiar gates of Carnival Town and began to walk on into the courtyard, only to find three tankers had surrounded him.

"Looks like we got us a hero..."
"Watcha doin' here, tinman?"
"Pwn him, Steve!"

Derinsky just sighed, and let his gold medal hit the ground with a thump.

"Shiny."
"Dibs when we drop him."
"Pwn him, Steve!"

"Fine, am knowing rules. You are nyet respecting turf rights, I am having to drop you. Bolshoi."

The big one in front laughed and swung back his sledgehammer arm, only to stay that way as his hydrolic lines suddenly coated with ice.
The two in back threw buzzsaw blades with the force of a small truck..... right through where Petrograd had just been, and right into the big ones chestplate, knocking him backwards.
A torrent of blue bolts flew down from above them, and when the glare cleared a few moments later, all three tanks were on the ground. Petrograd hopped down from the girder and headed on for the courtyard.

A hammer caught him flat in the back. "You didn't really think that a brainfreeze would stop me, didya? Shake off the wakies boys."
Hammers dented his carapace, claws threw sparks across steel, and before he could even stand back up, Petrograd lay still. The three big vultures gathered to roost.

"Hey boss, this beltpack won't come off, too many wires."
"Leave it, not much time till he runs to the hospital, crying mommy."
The three walked towards the courtyard, wearing between them a long red cape, an armful of belt ampules, and a shiny gold medal streight from the Freakalympics.

'Pshisssssshhhhh' went the beltpack, its four gauges clicking down one tick. Petrograd stood up, shaking his head. "Idiots." He broke into a run, his jetpack kicking in, skimming at ground level as the ice-sword appeared in his hand. The three never knew what hit them.

* * * * *

"Hey, its the golden-boy!" c4L1du5 called, sticking his 'meat' arm into a cooler. "Brewskie for the Ruski?"
Take one bottle jagermeister, one handful crushed-up no-doze, one hit excellsior, two packets of ginsing, 30 ccs of synthetic adrenaline, and store it under high pressure in an aluminum can.

"Spaceeba, comrade, but only the finest for me." Petrograd chucked him a flask of vitamin-enriched vodka and finished streightening his cape. "You know, perhaps, large metal ape named Steve?"

"Tanker?" c4L1du5 nodded. "Him and his pack of morons were on gate duty."

"Send relief and steel carriers, they are recouping in Zig."

"Good riddance. What can I do for ya, can-man?"

"Well," Petro stuttered, "I have been trying to find Tesla's journals...."

"Oh-ho, you want the Doc. Right this way."

They followed the land-line into what might've been a water purification plant: now it just looked like pipes and rust. Freaks, immobile except for the occaisonal twicth on beat-up old couches, lined every inch of the walls, with cables hanging spider-like from the hardline into their necks. Each held a post-it note, with incomprehensible codes like " 'tehK1n9h4xx0r', WoW, Scarlet Crusade" or " '[FRK]n008s+0mp4h', CS, [TK]Clanserv2" scrawled across them.

At the end of a long, pipe-laden hallway, down a set of stairs and around several sharp turns, was a fairly large crowd of freaks gathered around a bulkhead door. Petro listened closely to those already ahead of him: one stunner, unsatisfied with the performance of his new implants, wanted the doc to align his chakras and tune a crystal bracelet "for teh MAX juice," five or so younger freaks wanted to hear the latest news on the Black War between the Rokefeller Trust and the Military-Industrial Complex, and a tanker with an Anarchy symbol sprayed on his armor was asking for another explanation of the Tsara Obscura's Shadow Cabinet, just to make sure he "had it down."

c4L1du5 chuckled. "ch3'll never get it, the point of the Shadow Cabinet is that you're not SUPPOSED to understand it. You're up next, Petro. And go easy, the Doc's real jittery."

* * * * *

The cold, dank compartment had clearly lost an ever-expanding battle with the printed text: Corkboards full of tiny bulleted lists, stacks upon stacks of books on every horizontal (and most vertical) surfaces, bundles of newspaper full of clipped admissions, and sheaf after sheaf of printouts, with the newest ones speeding off of a bulky old Xerox machine in the corner. (Old, but fast: it was nearing 100 coalated and bound pages a minute.) Petrograd smiled to himself: Here was an Academic(!), something he had not seen more than a few times since coming to Paragon City. Oh, there were PCU professors, with easy access to the campus library e-books through their desktop computers, but Petrograd had never quite trusted these lazy capitalists: real research was done by hours and hours of digging through large, heavy, and very real books.

Dr. Richard VanXanth (Psy.D., honorary) sat at the only computer in the room, an original mac. It looked to have been 'overclocked' by the Freaks, but they only had so much to work with. He was a short round man, with big, thick, plastic framed glasses and more hair than a border collie. His labcoat (over cutoff jean-shorts, a Pink Floyd tee, and leather sandals) glowed from the ultraviolet 'evidence' lamps across the ceiling, the only lighting besides the monitor.

Petro tapped on the bulkhead, and the good doctor almost jumped out of his skin. "Don't hurt me." The doctor turned slowly, and Petrograd shrugged and stepped into the room.

"Why are using UV lamps?" Petrograd asked incredulously, hands to his eyes to block glare.

"Oh, they disrupt government carrier waves, and screw with night vission. If you prefer I have hallogens. What can I do for you?" The doctor flicked a switch, and the room filled with the more usual hard white fluorsecent light.

Petro wiped at his visor. "Bolshoi, was getting annoying. You are author of these?" He pulled a library printoff from a belt pouch and handed it to the doctor.

"Heh," the doctor gloated, "yes indeed, these are mine. 'Tesla's Lost Laboratory: The Earthquake Machine and Other Marvels' was good, but the best ones never got published. I had to put them out as e-books to get them past the Freemason editors. Even Pyramid Books called them 'pure speculation.' Shows how much they know. You a Tesla hound?"

"Somewhat, am needing his blueprints of Electric Knight's gloves to repair a device for a friend."

"Ah, electrostatic resonance, that was well before he got into force-fields and ambient universal energy. It should be in his early journals. You're in the right place." The doctor yanked a thick printoff from a stack, and handed it to Petrograd.

"Spaceeba bolshoi, you do nyet know ho much you have hel..... this is nyet journal." The document had to be at least 500 pages, and the thin yellow cover held the title Tesla's Journal, An Investigative History and Current Whereabouts.

"Well, the journal itself is over ten thousand pages. I've got what they let slip in the Freedom of Information Act, if you want it." The doctor clicked around on the mac for a moment, and the prineter loudly clunked and spat off a dozen pages. "Here's the blueprints, URL's at the top."

Petro set down the massive 'Investigative History' and looked over the blueprints. There were the gloves alright, blurrily photocopied, poorly scanned, and covered with FBI-issue sharpie.

Five minutes later, panting for air after a solid string of curses, Petrograd finally threw the blueprints (now crumpled into a ball about the size of a grape) aside. "So, where am I to get REAL blueprints?"

The doctor chuckled through his thick, unkempt beard. "Chapter five, around page 360, 'Current Whereabouts.' It'll put you along the right path."

Petrograd shrugged defeat and picked up the phonebook-dwarfing printout, tucking it close to his scarred and beaten carapace. "Are minding if I keep?"

"Go for it, I'll print off another copy for my records."

"Spaceeba." Petrograd wearily turned and stepped past the bulkhead.

Dr. VanXanth immediately opened a word processor and started on his ninety-sixth book: "Tesla and the Star-Men: Metalloid Aliens In Search of the Master's Plans." Pyramid Publishing picked it up, selling at a record run for the author: Of the thirty-two people who bought and read it, only Communard recognized the blurry photo of an aluminum man with a thick bundle of papers. "Beorgios publishers, stamping good scientific texts with stock photos."