The next morning, Sean woke up to see Will already gone. As he checked various electronics for updates from the previous night, he found a message on his Wardens communicator.
Message from Paragon: ‘Buoy set up. Waiting for results. Go to class, for now.’
Sean swung his legs off of the bed and stood, then started throwing on clothes.
Where’s Will? he wondered for a moment, then concluded, Probably breakfast or the gym or something.
Classes passed uneventfully, apart from picking up a few new flight tricks from a guest instructor in one of the power training classes. Just as his last class ended, Sean scanned the small crowd of Metahuman students.
Is Sasha right? Now that she’s mentioned it, I do recognize a lot of students from my floor in Planchett here, but not everyone, Sean thought. Though there are obviously some metahumans not in the program, and there’s also Sasha’s floor in Breccia. If that’s true, what is Will hiding?
As he left the building, his Wardens phone buzzed.
Message from Paragon: ‘Got a reading. There’s something down there all right. Meet me’
While he was still reading, the phone buzzed again. Another message:
Paragon: ‘oops, hit send early. Meet me at the h-tube entrance by the docks.’
Sean looked up where the unopened HyperTube stations were located to find the one his uncle was talking about and plugged the address into the phone’s GPS.
What the hell is a HyperTube anyway? Sean wondered, and read the introductory blurb on the Wikipedia page.
‘The HyperTube (trademark of AtlasTech) Mass Transit System is a transportation system designed to be resistant to the effects of most Nightmare-class metahumans. The first HyperTube system is currently under construction in Collswell City, originally slated for completion in 2010, but has been delayed due to controversy over the system’s safety.’
Once he was in costume, he reached the HyperTube station quickly. Paragon waited for him, leaning against the fenced-off stairs that lead down into the station, partially obscuring the sign that declared that the station would be “opening soon!” Those signs had been like that for months, with no actual evidence of any change in the HyperTube system.
“Glad you could make it,” Paragon commented as Guardian Angel landed. “I think those goons over there are reporting us back to someone.”
Guardian Angel followed Paragon’s gesture to see a small group of men in heavy winter coats huddled around a lamppost. One of them spoke into a cell phone and gesticulated along with his conversation.
Is that a problem? Paragon doesn’t seem too worried about it…
“So what’s the plan? Are we doing this alone?” Guardian Angel asked, eyes still on the goons.
“No. The kids are tied up with the Heralds of the Singularity, and Savage and Shadow are busy with their own thing, but we managed to pull a few strings and get some backup in. They should be here any moment.”
As if on cue, a trio of heroes rose out of the ground next to Guardian Angel and Paragon, arms crossed in costumes that looked more like hoodies than the traditional fare. The one in front, in a white hoodie, stepped forward and gave an exaggerated bow, while behind him, the one in grey with the stone textured mask punched the one in green with the scaled mask with lenses over the eyes.
“You were waiting for that, weren’t you?” Paragon said with mock accusation.
“We were,” confessed the man in the green and red hoodie, his voice muffled by his scaled mask’s lack of a mouth.
“Hey, don’t give it away!” protested the man in the grey hoodie with the stone-textured mask .
“Guardian Angel, meet the Redlake Heroes’ Association, otherwise known as TP and friends.”
“Tipping Point?” Guardian Angel extended a hand to the man in the white mask.
“In the flesh. Or costume, as the case may be.” Tipping Point shook his hand.
“I have to ask, are those-” Guardian Angel started to say.
“Contact lenses? Yeah,” Tipping Point said, pointing to his solid black eyes through the black-ringed holes in his mask. “My eyes are not actually this color. Helps with the reputation, though, and looks damn cool.”
“Why does he always get the first introduction?” Basilisk asked Pitfall in a stage whisper.
“Well, we all know I’m just the black chauffeur,” Pitfall stage-whispered back, feigning indignation.
“Sorry,” Sean apologized, and moved to shake their hands as well.
“Relax, they’re just messing with you. I’m obviously the most important.”
“Clearly,” Paragon added with a chuckle.
“We have spectors,” Basilisk said. “I’ll handle them.”
He walked off towards the group of thugs watching them from the corner.
“Hey!” he shouted. They all looked at him, and a flash of light illuminated the corner. The thugs froze in place. Basilisk picked them up and carried them around the corner one at a time.
“So you said you might have a way into that submarine?” Paragon asked Tipping Point once Basilisk dealt with the observers.
“Well, yes and no.” Tipping Point scratched his head.
“Which is it? Yes, or no? They’re mutually exclusive.”
“Short answer? No.”
Paragon scowled. “Explain, please?”
“We can’t get into the sub, but we can force it to surface. In theory.”
“I call it pressure-portaling,” Pitfall explained. “Simply put, portals at different altitudes create wind because do the different pressures. Underwater, the differential is even bigger. I could put one on the sub and one at the bottom of the bay and it’ll shoot to the top like a rocket. There’s a trick to it, though. I have to be able to see where I’m putting the portals.”
“So you have to get down to the sub anyway,” Guardian Angel guessed.
Tipping Point clutched his head. “Hold on, power change,” he said. “Feels like a tinker power, or something similar.”
“Damn, now’s not a good time for that,” Basilisk said.
“No, it’s different, I think. Let me try it.”
“Do we have time for this?” Guardian Angel asked.
“Let him,” Paragon said. “It might be useful.”
Tipping Point stared into the air for a moment, and a cordless electric drill coalesced from glowing blue lines in his hand.
“Blueprint,” he said. “That’s what I’ll call this one.”
“I think that’s taken, man,” Pitfall said.
“Doesn’t matter. The name’s just so I can remember what it does.”
He waved the drill around, and it vanished, replaced by a taser, then a cell phone a moment later.
“Sweet!” Basilisk said. “Do a laser gun.”
“That might take a little longer.” Tipping Point concentrated for a few seconds, and then plucked a high-tech looking handgun out of the air. “Or not.”
He pointed it at the ground and fired. A white hot lance of energy blasted out of the barrel and melted a hole in the asphalt, giving off an acrid smell.
“And it works, too,” Paragon said, his voice dry. Guardian Angel could tell his uncle was getting impatient of their antics despite his earlier sentiment.
“I wonder if I could do something bigger,” Tipping Point mused. He waved his hands in the air for what felt like a few minutes -though was almost certainly shorter than that, since Paragon didn’t run out of patience- and conjured a high-tech looking sports car.
“Damn, I like!”Pitfall said. “That’s one of the electric ones, right?”
“Mm-hm,” Tipping Point said, voice proud. “No heated seats, though. That would have taken longer.”
“Can I keep it?” Pitfall asked. “Please?”
“I’d let you, but it seems to be one at a time, and I have a better idea. I think I can get us to that sub.”
Guardian Angel shuffled forward against the bulkhead of the minisub, trying to get a little more space. His shoulders pressed up against the other heroes, stacked into the interior of the submersible like cordwood.
“You sure this thing’ll stick around?” Guardian Angel said, uneasy. “I don’t want it vanishing while we’re still down here.”
“Pretty sure it’ll stay, as long as I don’t forget and summon something else,” Tipping Point said.
Oh god, I hope that’s a joke. If this thing vanishes…
“Did you have to make this thing so small?” Basilisk asked. Guardian Angel’s back was cramped from being pressed up against the bulkhead.
“Well, no,” Tipping Point confessed, “but submarines are complicated. I didn’t want to make it too big and get carried away.”
“Looks like you have learned something after all,” Pitfall snarked.
“That, and I think they’d get suspicious if it was much larger,” Tipping Point continued, ignoring Pitfall’s remark.
“Wow, he really has learned something,” Basilisk agreed. “Whatever happened to driving down main street in a tank?”
“That was a bad idea in retrospect, but still totally worth it. It worked, didn’t it?”
“It did. I remember that,” Paragon remarked. It was the first time he’d spoken since they’d crammed themselves into the minisub Tipping Point had conjured. He seemed perfectly comfortable being pressed up against the other heroes in the enclosed space. “Dr. Onomatopoeia. Your nemesis.”
How can they just banter like that?
“So why the ‘Doctor?’” Pitfall asked. “I never figured that out.”
“Oh that’s right- he was an actual medical doctor,” Tipping point said with a laugh.
“Yeah, licenced and everything.”
“This thing has radar, right?” Guardian Angel asked, peering through the window in front of them. “I can’t see anything through the window.” He inched closer to the dark glass. The sun was still visible above them, but the water was much cloudier than Guardian Angel had expected, so seeing anything in the murk was nigh impossible. Looking out of the bay, the water stretched on, endless, dropping off to unfathomable depth. Vertigo clutched at Guardian Angel for a moment and he clenched his eyes shut.
“Sonar,” corrected Tipping Point, ignorant of Guardian Angel’s discomfort. “But yes. Otherwise it’d be impossible to find anything down here. The bay is filthy.”
“See, this is why I like Redlake better,” Basilisk said.
“Among other reasons,” Tipping Point added.
“That it?” Pitfall said, looking down at the sonar display. Guardian Angel peered over his shoulder to see that something had indeed appeared on the Sonar- a green blip shooting across the circular screen from behind them.
“Nah,” Tipping Point said. “Moving way too fast. And too small. Probably a big fish.”
“Looks like it’s coming straight towards us,” Guardian Angel said, worry creeping into his voice despite his best efforts.
“Shouldn’t hit us.” Tipping Point sounded confident about this. “At this rate, it’ll actually pass right in front of us. We should be able to see it out the window, actually.”
The bulkhead that Guardian Angel was pressed against started to vibrate and a humming sound filled the minisub. Within a few seconds, it had grown to a catastrophic shaking. Guardian Angel felt like his skull was going to get rattled off his spine. He clenched his teeth against the shaking and struggled to suppress his panic.
Shit shit shit! What is that thing?
“What is that?” shouted Pitfall over the rattling, echoing Guardian Angel’s thought. “I think my teeth are coming out.”
“Want to find out?” Tipping Point gestured out the window.
The dark shape that passed them was not a fish, nor anything mechanical. The edges were blurred and jagged, making a shape difficult to discern.
“Yes, I think I would like to find out,” Basilisk said, eyes tracking the object as it passed.
“Well, too bad,” Pitfall said as it passed out of sight. “‘Cause that’s all we’re going to see of it.”
The shaking subsided, and faded to nothing as the minisub gained distance.
“So… any ideas on what that was?” Guardian Angel asked.
“I’d wager it was another minisub,” Paragon said. “They’d have to get between the main sub and the city somehow.”
“Especially if they want to eat,” agreed Tipping Point. “Ship that size, they’d have to resupply every… three or so weeks at least. Or maybe not; they probably have some kind of chemical reaction generating oxygen… and desalinators to supply fresh water… Ooh, and they could grow algae as a food source, and- Ow!”
Pitfall smacked the back of Tipping Point’s head and chided him, “No tinker-talk.”
“Fine, but that’s-”
“Shut up, I mean, that’s it. That’s the sub, right there.” Tipping Point tapped his finger on the sonar screen to show the larger green blip that had appeared, then pointed out the window through the murk. “At least I think that’s it. Could also be a whale. Or a big-ass shark.”
Finally, Guardian Angel thought.
“Heh. Ass-shark,” Basilisk commented, and then it was his turn to get jabbed by Pitfall.
Their view of the sub grew clearer by degrees as they approached, but it never became completely clear. The edges were blurred and unclear much like the object that had passed them earlier.
“We should be able to get pretty close,” Tipping Point whispered. “I built some stealth into this thing, but that’s definitely tinker-made.”
“That explains how they got a sub,” Paragonwhispered back. “They probably got their hands on Habitat at some point.”
“Why are we whispering?” Basilisk asked, also in a whisper.
“That is an excellent point,” Tipping Point said out loud.
“So, uh, how are we going to get in?” Guardian Angel asked.
“I’m sure we planned something out,” Tipping Point said, twisting his neck around to look back at Basilisk and Pitfall. “We did, right?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Basilisk scratched his head. “Can’t we just go in through the hull?” He and Tipping Point both looked at Pitfall.
“Aw, come on, guys,” he griped. “You know it doesn’t work through glass.”
“Yeah, so?” Tipping Point said.
“So I’m going to have to go out there,” Pitfall continued.
Pitfall sighed. “Man, I hate doing this.”
“You’ve done it before?” Guardian Angel asked.
“More often than you think. You guys are going to have to push me through. Pressure’s gonna to try to push me back.”
“Pressure has no motive, it’s-” Tipping Point started to recite.
“It’s personification, bro. Dammit, I hope I don’t get the bends.”
By this point, they were close enough to the submarine to make out the bays that the minisubs launched from. Pitfall started to sink through the bulkhead of the minisub, with a scuba tank, and the others helped to push him through. The portal was sealed around him, and closed as he passed through, so no water leaked into the sub itself.
Once Pitfall had passed through, Basilisk said, “Ah, that’s better. Some space to breathe.”
A few seconds later, Pitfall’s arm appeared through the window in the front of the minisub, giving them a thumbs-up.
“Okay, I’m just going to ram one of those doors,” Tipping Point said.
“What?” Guardian Angel exclaimed.
“Relax, we do this all the time,” reassured Tipping Point. “Usually with cars-”
“And a plane once. Talk about barnstorming!” Basilisk interjected.
“-but it’s the same principle,” Tipping Point finished.
“Except underwater!” Basilisk added. The outer shell of the submarine was looming now, with the same blurred texture as the object that had passed them before.
“It’s camouflaged,” Tipping Point observed. “Explains why it didn’t show up on sonar until now.”
“Why did it show up now, then?” Paragon wondered. “On our sonar, and on Dr. Mind’s sonar buoy.”
“Everybody brace for impact,” Tipping Point said. “You know, just in case this doesn’t work.”
“Brace against what?” Basilisk asked.
“Just brace in general,” Tipping Point replied. “Honestly, I just always wanted to say ‘brace for impact.’”
Guardian Angel sucked in a breath and gritted his teeth as they approached the sub. They hit the door of the submarine’s launch bay and the metal covering Pitfall’s portal shredded like tinfoil. The minisub lurched as the pressure from outside pushed it through. A crash tore through the sub and the world tilted, causing Guardian Angel’s stomach to lurch. He looked up through the window just in time to see Pitfall hop down from the top of the minisub and flip him off.
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By popular request, this chapter features the return of everyone’s favorite characters. Unfortunately, since they talk a lot, I didn’t get to everything I had planned to happen in this chapter, but don’t worry, I’ll get to it.
I demand Dr. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia
hehe , hippo’s
My favorite character is Will
Oh cool! First time I’ve heard that from someone. Means my work developing that character has paid off.
Agreed with mosefu Will is best character. I’m surprised more people haven’t said as much.
Yea, not sure that’s true. When you first introduced TP and crew I mentioned how I like Shadow better. Actually, before reading this comment I was just thinking how I wished it was Shadow and TP & crew working together instead of Guardian Angel.
Huh, see I hadn’t heard that- I guess it’s a silent majority kind of thing.
Seriously no one else liked Will WTH. He has freaking shadow powers, shadow powers what is wrong with them. Is this the only story set in this universe or is there more. Otherwise how can people have any favorite character other than Will for me he is the main character.
Yeah, more Will. He’s got a cool conflict, cool motivations, is likable enough to be relatable, has cool powers that have a lot of interesting facets, and I generally am skimming this cause I want to get back to him.
He looked up through the window just in time to see Basilisk hop down from the top of the minisub and flip him off.
That should be Pitfall, I assume.
Yes it should. I’ll put that on the fix list.
This chapter is magnificent. TP is great.