Traffic hadn’t been bad from Heather’s house over to my new place of employment. A week ago she’d been able to come home, but the doctors believed she was at least another two weeks away from returning. She asked me a few times how I’d been able to heal so much faster than she had, but I told her it was just different for different people. I also hadn’t been the recipient of the full blast like she’d been. That had been saved for Deputy Mayor Martinez.
I couldn’t believe for the first time in years I was beginning a job that wasn’t with Wonder-Tech. It’d been an awkward last two weeks once I put in my notice, but it was all part of the plan. Besides, it was way different than the last time I’d been here robbing the place.
With that memory in my mind, I walked up to the front kiosk and was greeted by the receptionist. “Good morning and welcome to gl-O-bal Labs. How may I assist you?”
“Jericho Staley, new hire for R&D checking in.”
She typed something into her computer and then looked up. “Seems you are to report to Mr. Walker’s office. Allow me to give you a visitor pass so you can access the Management level.”
With the pass in hand, I found the elevator fairly easily and saw where to slide the pass. As soon as I did, the elevator closed and went up to the twenty-sixth floor. Greeting me as I got off was Owen Walker’s personal assistant, Jeff Trelewicz. It was weird seeing him in a business suit. “Welcome Mr. Staley. Mr. Walker’s office is the last one down the left side hallway.”
“Thank you.” He gave me a bit of a wry smile and let me pass.
All the offices were glass, yet a good deal of them were empty. I passed two with people working in them and a third that had Trelewicz on the name plate, but that was it. Owen’s door was also glass, but fogged up so I just knocked. The fog instantly vanished and the door popped open.
Taking that as my sign to come on in, “Mr. Walker? Jericho Staley here for my first day.”
“Come on in and shut the door would you.” I did as asked. “There, with the door closed we’re good to speak freely.”
His office was a bit plainer than I expected. There was a pretty sweet computer sitting on a contemporary style desk, but that was about it. One wall was just a giant window overlooking Pacific Station, but the rest were bare, just a white color. There were no decorations or pictures of anyone.
I took a seat in one of the two guest chairs in front of his desk. “John has no idea you’re Diamonds and that you know his true identity?”
“Mr. Wonderton’s a decent guy but a bit on the clueless side. He spends a great deal of his time trying to figure out how to get his email to work properly.”
Owen just shook his head in disbelief. “His R&D department has to be top notch for an imbecile like that to be running one of the world’s largest tech corporations.” He kicked his feet up on his desk. “Well that’s good for us, as we need to finish the elemental gun. I would’ve liked to have had it complete by now, but I agree with you, not giving two weeks’ notice would’ve been a bit suspicious.”
I had talked Owen into letting me do that. It’d given me time to get John all set up with everything he’d need during the run over at gl-O-bal. “Clubs is going to have his hands full. I bet John turns to him for all of his tech needs.”
“Phil Jenkins can handle it. That was one of the reason’s I was able to turn him.”
This was a subject I was privately curious about, how The Aces came to be. “How did you discover others with super talents?”
“Jenkins was trying to hack into my system a year or so back when we caught him. The way he was doing it, it wasn’t like anything I’d seen before.”
I got the feeling Jenkins was on site and tried to do so by what he called ‘organic hacking.’ “It must’ve been pretty freaky to see someone in the state he’s in when he does his thing.”
“That is was.” He looked like he was reminiscing about something. “A few weeks later we met at a conference and we stayed in touch after that. It took some time for us to gain each other’s trust, but in the end, it all worked out.”
He turned his chair to face out the window. “Jeff and I have been friends for a long time. We both knew at a young age we were different and vowed to make a difference. Believe it or not, there is a point to my madness with The Aces.”
He swiveled back towards me. “Fear Jericho, the ultimate motivator. As The Aces we terrify the city, to the point where they’re close to giving up on The Dark Lion. At that instant, when he fails for the final time, a new hero will rise and take control.”
Did Owen fashion himself a hero? “Someone who will miraculously put a stop to The Aces?”
“Yes, in one swipe, an epic battle if the city needs it, a new hero will be born and the people of Pacific Station will cheer for him. Of course,” his smile turned a bit sinister, “the new hero will rule the city with an iron fist.”
I already knew the answer, but I felt like feeding the ego in front of me. “Are you really The Negative Man?”
Delighted shock formed. “Oh no, but that would’ve been a good punch line wouldn’t it?” He laughed for a moment before going on. “I have no idea who he is and where he’s at. I wish I had a chance to speak to him directly, to help my cause.”
“Sounds like you’ve got this all figured out, create an evil the city can’t handle, break the current hero, and then replace him.”
“Exactly! The Negative Man inspired me so much that I want to finish what he started! And we’re so close…” The last part was more to himself than it was to me.
This is where my part came in. “So the elemental gun, is it still in the same state it was when I last saw it?”
“No one’s touched it. It is awaiting you in your new state of the art workshop on level B5. You’ll be the only person, besides me, with access to that level.”
I knew it was a terrible cause, but the thought of my own state of the art workshop excited me a little. “Then there’s no time to waste. Let me get down there and get started.”
He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a company card. “This is your ID card. Much like that guest pass brought you right up here; this one will lock the elevator and take you to B5. You’ll also have a phone down there that’ll connect you directly to me. Any questions?”
“Yeah, there’s a toolbox full of Red Wolf’s waiting for me right?”
“Ironically with the money you help me steal from Wonder-Tech, I was able to fit that into the budget.” He offered a smile and a wink at his little inside joke/dig. “I hope you enjoy you’re state of the art facility.”
State of the art? Hell NASA would want some of this stuff. There was every tool known to man lined up on the far wall, a huge work table on which a steel briefcase was sitting, and a drafting table, full of paper and pencils.
I walked over to the briefcase and popped it open. Sitting inside was the elemental gun, but this time it had all the different chambers in a case off to the side. Each was labeled; heat, electricity, wind, and aether. I had no idea what aether was, but a black liquid was swirling around inside.
I grabbed a screwdriver and immediately opened the power compartment again. Grabbing a pencil, I started making a diagram of the wiring and seeing where I could add new ones. It was tedious work, but it’d been so long since I did actual mechanical work, that I didn’t mind. Don’t get me wrong, I loved computers, but my real passion was building. Even though this was going to be designed to kill The Dark Lion, I couldn’t help myself from enjoying this.
I was like a whirlwind in my workshop. I hadn’t even noticed the time or the fact the elevator door opened. By then, I’d taken the wiring down and had the power cell in a stable container for observation. I wanted to know just exactly what this thing could do before I attempted to create a new gun to house it in.
“Sweet mercy, you’re not one to lollygag are you?”
I had a pair of darkened safety goggles on, to help see but also keep the light out of my eyes. Shifting them to the top of my head, “Mr. Walker, welcome to the madness.”
Besides him was Trelewicz. I could see he was out of his element, but he still seemed very impressed. “Are you sure you’re not some kinda super?”
“That I am. I’m just good with my hands, that’s all. I guess you could say I have a knack for working with currents.”
Owen was already at my table marveling my sketches and the progress at which I made. “I thought I was a genius, but you’re putting me to shame. Jericho,” he looked up and over at me, “I believe your potential exceeds anything I’ve ever seen.”
I was never big on compliments. “Hold off on those thoughts until you get a working gun. I’ve still got a lot to do before then.”
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