Dystopia Chapter 22
From the Story Arc: Dystopia
(posted Friday, August 25, 2006)
“Why do you always have to pick through the scraps?”
Alex – after ten years he had finally resigned himself to the moniker – looked up from the pile of electronics that surrounded him. Having squatted down to better examine the pieces, he found the sun obscuring the form of the speaker. Not that it mattered, he was good at recognizing voices – though terrible with names. He smirked and put his finger to a small flashing diode on the circuit board in his hand.
“See this?” He tilted the wafer a bit to shade the bulb from the sunlight, making the lit LED more prominent. “This one still has power left. If I can figure out what the source is-”
“Yes, I know, I know,” the deep bass of his companion interrupted, “we might be able to disrupt them and turn them off. You say that all the time.”
“Then why do you keep asking, Kolya?” Alex flashed a broad smile, purposefully using the Russian nickname for his friend, who was a little too American, and much too black, to ever be confused for a member of the former Soviet Republics.
“In the vain hope that the little men running that machine you call a brain have finally gotten around to building that second track, Zander.” Nick returned the grin, relishing as Alex winced at the butchery of his name. Americans never seemed to run out of ways to pervert other languages and cultures. “So, any luck with this one?”
“I do not know yet,” Alex replied, bringing the piece up to the careful scrutiny of his trained eye. He had always had a kind of sixth sense for electronics, able to take things apart and put them back together at whim, and the development of his “powers” over the last decade had only seemed to heighten this affinity. He traced a finger over the bulb, following a small copper wire along the surface to a small silver aperture. “Maybe if I-”
A large spark leapt across the gap between man and machine, prompting the physicist to bring his hand to his lip to suck on the injured digit. Only afterwards did he realize that he'd dropped the piece – now pieces - onto the hard, unhelpful concrete.
“I'll take that as a no.”
Alex's stare bore straight through his comrade.
“Hey, don't glare at me!” Nick raised his hands in mock surrender. “I didn't set the gravitational constant of the universe!”
Alex chuckled and stood up, kicking the broken electronics to the side, where it joined a pile of gargantuan weaponry – misshapen swords and bulbous obsidian guns. The best minds on the planet had yet to figure out how the pistols and rifles worked, flinging oddly shaped masses of green energy that disintegrated metal and flesh alike with a small display of fireworks.
“I am thinking more and more that these aliens use some kind of broadcast power,” Alex mused aloud while wiping the dust from his hands onto his pants. He turned to the pile of electronics beside him and scooped them up into his hands. “I keep finding these strange objects which seem to act as an antenna, but the question is finding the right resonance frequency to subject them to. Nothing I've done works.”
“We've never seen any generators, though.” Nick joined Alex as the two of them started hauling the junk to the side of the street. The pair had done this, along with the rest of the draftees, after every single fight for the last few months. It was entirely automatic at this point, and only gave the smallest of winces when they found bodies – human or alien – amongst the rubble of the destroyed neighbourhood. “They just pop in through those red vortexes of their's and start blastin'. Don't talk. Don't eat. Just kill. Don't even know if they have real supply lines.”
“They must have supply lines, they're organic,” Alex corrected, pointing at one of the mysterious invaders from another dimension. “Anthropomorphic: two arms, two legs, and very similar organs. Their DNA is similar, isn't it?”
“Yep,” Nick nodded, muttering under his breath. “Doesn't help us much. My specialty is human mutations, not xenobiology.”
“We know they come from a portal world,” Alex continued. “Wouldn't surprise me if they're some alternative human; evolution taking a different direction on their Earth.”
“Hey, maybe you just killed your alternate self!” His comrade pointed to another corpse from the same pile. “And this is me!”
“I doubt that. In a more warlike universe, I am sure I would have killed you by now.” Alex flashed a grin, demonstratively destroying a small piece of dislodged concrete with a blast of energy from his palm.
“Broadcast power means no Chernobyl, Lex.” The pile of rocks at his feet were instantly encased in a block of ice, then slid across the pavement by an invisible force, while the pair looked on. “You'd be no match for us home-grown mew-tants.” He always pronounced the second syllable so that it rhymed with “rant” or “cant”. Alex still didn't know why, though he kept reminding himself to ask Sofia about it.
“Regardless, Nikolai,” Alex rolled his eyes and continued their clean up routine, “since their invasion portals disappeared the day after they came, there must be generators here somewhere. We know they have hidden bases underground, maybe they're down there.”
“You didn't hear?” Nick paused dramatically. “I know something you don't. Let me savor this.”
Tap-tap-tap went Alex's shoe, the brown leather long stained black by soot.
“Okay, I'm done,” Nick announced, then broke into monologue: “The latest thing out of Paragon City is that Dr. Science has detected more of these portals deep beneath the city. Apparently, these Rikti bastards have been receiving reinforcements from the very beginning, fresh troops and weaponry.”
“So their power could be generated from the other side of their portals?” Alex queried. “The generators are in their own dimension?”
“Yeah.” The doctor nodded. “That's the thought of the Freedom Phalanx. Dr. Science is still pouring through the records of the Portal Corp. expedition to the Rikti world, to see if he can use that to trace a portal. They're going to take the fight to them.”
“About time,” Alex muttered darkly, once again wiping his hands off on his pants, then quickly brightened. “I wonder if I could get transferred to Paragon; always wanted to see the Portal Corp. tech. Absolutely fascinating.”
“One thing at a time, brother,” Nick replied, patting him on the shoulder. “Sofia would eat you alive if you didn't take care of home, first.”
“America?” Viy frowned, looking up from the report to the two rippers, then to the prisoner, still unconscious from the numerous drugs coursing through his veins. “The old enemy of the people returns, I see.”
The rippers sat motionless, unblinking.
“And...” He blinked, staring at the documents more intensely. “Aliens? From another alternate Earth? And this is where his portal technology comes from?” Not good news. He had been hoping that his man was, like his alternate had been on this world, a brilliant physicist and inventor, and that the portal technology was of his own design. Then the rippers might have been able to see some of the invention process.
It did give a different glimmer of hope, though: if these people had reversed-engineered transdimensional travel from invaders from across the ether, perhaps he could do the same.
“Continue. Examine these Rikti in his memories and see if you can learn something about the portals from there.” A sudden spark came to his mind, the invisible thread connecting the reports together. “And see if he mentions Nick or Sofia again. I may need to interview him personally...”