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Randall McNeil belongs to and is used with his permission.
Potentia belongs and appears with permission.
Angel Falls is a city on the rise. After decades of economic languor it was finally seeing a rebirth and period of prosperity. That prosperity, and the opportunities it created, attracted businesses to the city. Everything from small Mom and Pop businesses to the largest of the large; megacorps. Mega-corporations like Stranger Industries, Nova-Gen Technologies, Yoyodyne Industries, and one of the largest; Universal Omnitech. These were corporations so large their economies rivaled and in many cases surpassed the economies of various countries.
Universal Omnitech was one of the first generation of megacorps. It had grown steadily from humble beginnings in the years prior to the American Civil War into the international conglomerate that spanned the globe. Like a giant octopus, it had its tentacles in many fields. The megacorp was heavily involved in heavy manufacturing, data systems, munitions and armaments, shipping, medical and pharmaceutical research, space technology, and many more. Inside the city Universal Omnitech was currently expanding it presence following the devastating tidal wave which had struck the Old Port section of the city. By offering far more than generous bids on damaged and destroyed properties in the disaster zone, Omnitech had managed to acquire huge swaths of property. The megacorp had immediately begun an aggressive rebuilding campaign, leveling older and derelict buildings to lay the foundations for a new state-of-the-art port facility. Many experts called the efforts pure folly and financial irresponsibility. But that was before the oceanographic surveys were completely. The experts were all silenced when it was revealed that the outflow from the tidal wave had scoured the harbor floor clean. Decades of silt and debris had been washed away, increasing the depth of the shipping channels and harbor areas. This would now allow newer cargo and container ships to use the port facilities. Overnight, Universal Omnitech’s efforts had gone from folly to genius. The tidal wave had accomplished in minutes what would have taken months if not years and hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve. Universal Omnitech and its CEO Randall McNeil were suddenly in position to control a modern deep water port situated on several major shipping lanes. The company stood to make billions as it took control of the city’s waterborne trade.
All eyes turned to the waterfront as the gleaming new facilities took form and began operations. The press covered the grand openings, the first ships docking and unloading, the crowds of dock workers returning to the piers for the first time in years. Universal Omnitech was the current media darling and the megacorp’s public relations departments were taking every advantage of the situation. The eyes of the city watched the happenings at the waterfront. And that was just where Randall McNeil wanted them.
Universal Omnitech had been very deliberate in the pattern of acquisitions and reconstruction projects. Besides the port facilities themselves, numerous support facilities had built in the areas surrounding the port, docks, and wharves. At first glances, it looked like these facilities were just there to support the current dock facilities and to be positioned to take advantage of future expansions. That was the public face that the megacorp had put out for all to see. But behind the facades of trucking depots, warehouses, engineering facilities and administrative centers another reality lurked just out of sight.
Universal Omnitech was known for the impressive research labs located in Angel Falls. As a company dedicated to advanced research and esoteric experiments, these labs were a vital part of the megacorp’s business. Unfortunately these labs were also prime targets for corporate espionage, super villains, tech thieves, and every tree-hugging dirt-munching unwashed eco-terrorist who could cobble together a protest sign. With the acquisition of so much property, UO had begun quietly building several covert and hidden laboratories inside the city. Much of the construction was planned to blend in with the rebuilding efforts. In one smooth stroke, UO had tripled the number of labs it had with no one in the city being any wiser. Let the villains and thieves go after the obvious targets; Randall McNeil and his cadre of scientists could now work in peace and security. No more complaints from law enforcement and city fathers about the excessive weaponry and level of force his security forces used in protecting his assets. Let the eco-activists and give-peace-a-chance crowds demonstrate outside labs that no longer handled critical projects and believe they were making a difference. Let them march and chant in blissful ignorance while less than a mile away new weapons of mass destruction and alternative energy sources were being created without any hindrance or scrutiny.
It was just such a project that Universal Omnitech’s brilliant CEO was overseeing at the moment. The government had contracted with UO to research a potential new energy source. The substance, just over six liters of a glowing orange gel had been delivered to UO’s largest research lab under military escort. The megacorp had been required to account for every milliliter of the exotic substance and assume responsibility for it before it was turned over to them. Although the government officials had been very tight-lipped about the substance’s origins it was soon clear to the scientists that it was of extraterrestrial if not intergalactic origin.
The energy properties of the substance were phenomenal. McNeil rubbed his together excitedly. Although the government had tried to limit the information regarding the gel, the CEO could guess. It was most likely a part of a recovered space artifact. He imagined that the artifact, whatever it was, had been parceled out to different corporations. That way the government could ensure they were the only ones with the complete picture after all the research was done. The thought that more of this incredible technology was out there made him mentally salivate. Space technology and interstellar travel were areas of intense personal interest to him. He had already instructed his personal assistant Ms Harrison to have the corporate intelligence division to start making “inquiries” at other corporations that may have been employed for this project.
The handsome CEO smiled as he considered the route the mysterious gel had taken to arrive here. Perhaps from some other galaxy from some incredibly advanced civilization, across the vastness of space, only to be captured or recovered by the US military and delivered to his lab in Angel Falls. That same day, after the military and government representatives had left, it was transported from the lab in the back of what appeared to be a “Chocolate Salty Balls” snack delivery truck to this covert lab. His eyes scanned the various readouts as his scientists performed batteries of tests on the substance. All the results were being recorded for the government, but the CEO could already see the government tests were barely scratching the surface of the orange gel’s potential. “If only I could run my own tests,” he thought to himself bitterly. But the government requirements for accountability ensured he would not be able to use any of the miraculous stuff for anything but what the government instructions allowed.
Randall McNeil’s eyes watched with laser-like intensity as the alien gel easily absorbed the entire output of the covert lab’s three fusion reactors. Six liters of fluid absorbing and storing hundreds of megawatts of energy with less than ten degrees rise in temperature. His eyes reflected the orange glow from the sample as he observed the scientists take the three reactors to full power. His mind was spinning with the possibilities the sample offered. A potential energy technology that could store the energy needed to cross the intergalactic gulf between star systems. Vehicles that could run for decades on the charge stored by a thimbleful of the substance. The implications were staggering.
His thoughts were interrupted as an alarm klaxon began to sound. The CEO looked towards the lab safety director. The elder scientist was pressing different controls as he watched the readouts. “We have a security breach in sector 3,” he reported.
“Sector 3, show me!” ordered the CEO. He looked at the security monitors as they displayed the area in question. As he watched a cloaked and armored figure strode into view. “Dammit, not now! How could he know about the lab,” McNeil asked loudly. Scientists and researchers looked towards him awaiting orders. “Alright people, we have an emergency. We are going to full security lockdown. Prepare to secure the sample in the security vault. As soon as it is secure, I want the lock servos manually blown out. That will keep even him out. Security, I want a UO Tac-response team here five minutes ago. With heavy weapons!” McNeil watched as security teams moved to secure access to the lab. On the monitors, other guards were setting up security stations to try to stop the intruder.
“Sir, we will need at least fifteen minutes to lower the fusion levels enough to where we can safely disconnect the sample,” one the senior scientists reported. She pointed to the displays showing the reactor power levels slowly inching downward as the atomic reactions in the three reactors were quenched.
McNeil shook his head. “Dr Hagen, that is Twisted Savant out there. Our security forces will be lucky to slow him for ten minutes, never mind fifteen. I want those power levels down now. We have to get the sample into the security vault before he gets here!”
The brunette scientist frowned. “Sir, our procedures don’t allow for that rapid an adjustment. The magnetic containment fields will never hold. The reactors simply aren’t designed for that kind of response. We..”
“I don’t want excuses, Doctor. If your procedures are inadequate, you better come up with some new ones. Get on it.” McNeil turned away as the scientist ran over to the power control console and started barking orders to the technicians there. Looking at the monitors he watched as the armored super villain approached a security checkpoint. The guards there opened fire with plasma pulse pistols and rifles. Cyan bolts of raw power filled the air as they fired on the advancing intruder. As he watched, the CEO could see the air around Twisted Savant shimmer. The plasma projectiles expended their energy harmlessly as they struck the force field surrounding the intruder.
Pausing for a moment, Twisted Savant opened a pouch on his belt. A small stream of tiny metallic beads cascaded to the floor at his feet. At some unseen signal, the tiny spheres moved en masse towards the security guards. As they reached the frantically firing guards, the metallic balls swarmed around them before rupturing. Each of the globes released a small amount of reddish gas that hung heavily in the air around the guards. In scant seconds each member of the security detail dropped his or her weapon as they fell insensate to the floor. The powerful anesthetic gas had drugged them into unconsciousness before any of them could react.
Randall McNeil watched with growing frustration as the scene was repeated again and again. His guards simply did not the firepower needed to stop the armored villain. The only consolation so far was that Twisted Savant appeared to be using non-lethal weapons. Taser bolts, monofilament tanglers, knock-out gas and other less-than-deadly weapons were still picking his regular security details apart. His tactical response team was still nearly twenty minutes away at best. Even their heavier weapons might only slow down Twisted Savant. As a security guard passed him, the CEO borrowed his plasma pistol and checked its charge. Addressing the security detail assembled in the lab, he took command. “Alright, I want everyone who has a spare side arm to give it to a scientist or researcher now. I want the maximum number of weapons available to us firing when I give the command. Show them how to aim. I want everyone aiming for the same spot, the center of the chest. That is the target. With luck maybe we can overload that damned force field of his. Remember, center of the chest. And no one fire until I give the command, or you loose your Christmas bonus.”
His last statement brought a few nervous chuckles from the scientists that were receiving a crash course in energy weapons from the security guards. Dr Hagen came over and shook her head. “I’m sorry sir. I am pushing the reactors as fast as I can, I swear. But we need another four minutes before we can even think of disconnecting the sample.”
McNeil smiled and patted her shoulder. “It’s alright doctor. I know you are doing your best. Stay at it, and secure the container as soon as you can. We will try to buy you those four minutes. Has someone rigged the locking servos for self destruct as soon as the sample is inside the vault?”
“Yes sir. Tomlinson and Hadoshi just finished. Hadoshi will do it himself as soon as it is inside. It will fuse the door shut, it will take a week to cut through the locks.”
“Good work doctor, I appreciate your efforts. See if you can shave any more time off the shutdown, I have a feeling this will be close,” the CEO said as the sound of plasma guns and projectile weapons came from just outside the lab. “Mackleroy, drop the blast doors now! Everyone with a weapon, get behind the telemetry consoles. That is where we will set up our firing line. Everyone else; if you aren’t helping to shutdown and secure the experiment, get to the far side of the lab and get behind some cover.” His words were punctuated with a metallic thud as the heavy blast and fire doors shut over the entrance to the lab. People moved into position as they waited for the worst.
It was not long in coming. A large circular area of the blast door began to glow green. There was a shrieking rending noise as the luminous area suddenly imploded inward, the matter collapsing in upon itself to form a small disc of super compressed metal. A hush seemed to fall over the lab as the armored form of Twisted Savant stepped through the freshly made opening. The lights reflected off the pale green surface of his armor as his cloak fluttered in the breeze created by the air conditioning. His helmet turned slowly side to side as he surveyed the lab, stopping when he spotted the test chamber with the alien sample inside it.
“Open fire!” commanded McNeil as Savant took another step forward.
To their credit, most of the fire was reasonably well aimed. Only a few scientists panicked, firing wildly in the villain’s direction. Savant’s force field stopped the barrage but began to glow first yellow then red as it tried to deflect the swarm of plasma projectiles. For a moment it looked like the sheer volume of incoming fire might actually stop his progress.
“Keep firing,” shouted the CEO as he tried to rally his troops.
Savant slowly raised his right hand and extended his index finger. He wagged it side to side as if to say “not good enough.” Raising his left hand as well, he spread his fingers as his Ultralloy gauntlets suddenly began to glow brightly. Without any further warning, a polyphasic energy discharge leapt from his fingertips and arced through the air. The energy crackled and sputtered as it ran through the bodies of the defenders and nearby scientists. Bodies jerked and twitched spasmodically as they were stunned into unconsciousness. The plasma fire died off quickly as all the defenders were subdued.
The first thing Randall McNeil became aware of was the pain. All his muscles ached and felt bruised. The shock Twisted Savant had used to render everyone unconscious had caused every muscle in his body to clench and seize up. He opened his eyes and tried to raise his head. Even that simple movement brought a fresh wave of pain. Slowly rolling onto his side, he looked towards the testing chamber. He could see that the villain’s attack had disabled all the armed personnel and many of the scientists and researchers in the lab. Twisted Savant was just finishing cutting through the armored observation window with a laser on one of his gauntlets. As the glass panel fell away, Savant stepped into chamber. Outside in the main lab Omnitech’s CEO staggered his feet. Picking up a plasma rifle, he could see the power pack had been completely drained. All the weapons appeared to be in the same condition. Seeing the numerous dead and dark computer screens, he surmised that Savant’s attack also disrupted power and computer systems. Looking around, he tried to see what other options he had available to him.
Looking around he spotted an isotopic injector gun outside the testing chamber. Used to add specific trace elements to the atmosphere inside the testing chamber, it could deliver a high pressure jet of the selected isotope. He adjusted the settings frantically as he watched for Savant to exit the testing chamber. He barely finished programming the device when the armored villain stepped back outside, easily carrying the sample container under one arm. From a dozen feet away McNeil pulled the trigger on the injector. A jet of sparkling blue dust sprayed out the tip of the gun to impact against Savant’s armor.
Twisted Savant whirled around and raised his free hand. McNeil barely had time to drop the injector and dive for cover before a mini-missile launched from a tube on the underside of Savant’s forearm. Seeking the cover of a bank of computers, McNeil hit the ground hard as the concussion of the explosion washed over him. Once again darkness claimed the CEO.
“Mr McNeil, I need you to hold still. There may still be some shrapnel in some of these wounds,” insisted the UO trauma team doctor. “These need to be properly cleaned and stitched. Or better yet treated with a dermal bonder.”
Randall McNeil looked over his shoulder at the doctor treating the injuries on his back. “What I need doctor, is for you to bandage my wounds so I can take care of what needs to be done to handle this crisis! Now do as I say. You can give me some broad spectrum antibiotics to hold me over until I can get proper treatment!”
“Sir, I cannot justify that. Some of these wounds are very deep. If you open them you could bleed out before you have a chance to get help. I have to treat these properly,” the doctor said as he reached for a syringe and a bottle of sedative. His hand stopped as it was grabbed by a feminine hand and held in place like it was stuck in solid granite. He tried to pull free but could not budge his hand one millimeter.
“What you need to do, doctor, is exactly what Mr McNeil instructed,” said Casey Harrison. McNeil’s personal assistant stared at the doctor. Her eyes glittered with intense malevolence as she held the doctor’s hand fast.
The doctor squirmed, his hand felt like it was caught in a hydraulic vice. “Well, under protect, but I ahhh…” he said as he felt the bones in his hand start to creak under the pressure of her grip. The woman unnerved him completely with her cold intense stare. It felt like she was about to explode into violence at any moment. As she released his hand, he put away the sedative and did as the CEO had instructed. When he was finished he hurried away, saying he could not be responsible for further injury.
Casey Harrison watched him leave. She turned to her employer and leaned closer. “Boss, you want me to find this Twisted Savant and retrieve the sample? Maybe give him a little payback for what he has done here?” She pulled her blouse open a bit to reveal some of the costume she wore underneath her business attire, making it clear it would be Potentia and not Casey Harrison that would be hunting the armored villain.
McNeil looked around and shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Why not, you don’t think I can do it?” She asked, sounding hurt by her boss’s lack of faith.
Randall smiled and took her hand in his. “Don’t be silly, Casey. It is not a matter of doubt of your abilities. But Twisted Savant is very dangerous. Think back to our chess games. Why would I risk my queen when a pawn is available?” He smiled as he kissed the back of her hand.
Casey felt herself blush as she felt McNeil’s lips brush her skin. “Who are you thinking of, boss?”
McNeil stood up, wincing in pain as he reached for his tattered jacket. “Get me all the files on subject 23.”
This is an awesome story. Great drawing by . I'm suspicious by nature, so I suspect Twisted Savant was hired by McNeil to get a hold of the sample, since he seems to want it so very much. That's only a suspicion.
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