The clock was running. Owen had already messaged me that his challenge had been accepted by The Dark Lion. Sunday night, at Waves Park of all places; Walker had really gone out of his way to rip off The Negative Man.
I was about to run my next test on the elemental gun when I got a text from Heather. Wanting to know what I was up to, I told her that I was stuck in the lab, working on some last minute project. I did promise I’d be over tonight for dinner so we could talk about how things were going with The Dark Lion. She responded with an ‘okay great’ and a thumbs up. It was nice to see her cheering up again.
DL kept me in the loop with her training. He said she was just starting her journey, but having a fellow super to talk to helped her nerves. He also was acting as a grief counselor, helping her overcome the immense guilt she had for the attack of The Big Burrito.
Between her training with DL and me getting stuck with the undercover work, it’d been a tough week for us. With things coming to a head between Spades and The Dark Lion, I hoped this would be it and I could get back to finally being me.
Grabbing the gun, I resumed the tests. I needed this gun to be operating perfectly as per my cover. The Dark Lion refused to let me booby-trap the gun for him. If his plan was to get himself killed, then he was doing a damn fine job of it. The first test went off well, the gun achieving optimum capacity with the cold chamber in.
The fire chamber and the electric chamber also went off without hitches, just leaving the aether. As much as I wanted to break open the chamber and see what the mysterious liquid inside was, I loaded it into the chamber. Walker hadn’t really told me much about this and I didn’t want to overly inquire, so there was one way to find out. With the gun stabilized, I loaded the aether one in and engaged the mechanism.
The blast as I pulled the trigger knocked me down, sent the gun flying, and the target was gone; as in no sign of it. To no one in particular, “What the hell was that?”
I walked over and picked up the gun. It hadn’t been damaged, but it was pretty hot. I could barely carry it over to the table before my hands were burning. If I was going to set this to work, I needed to know just exactly what I was dealing with finally.
I made the call. A very perky Owen Walker answered. “Morning Jericho! Do you have good news already?”
“What I need is information. The cyro, heat, and wind chambers work perfectly. What doesn’t is the aether. Now, I’ve kept my curiosity at bay, but when it makes a target completely disappear, I need answers.”
“How I’ve awaited today to meet a contemporary to talk to this about.” I got the feeling Hearts and Clubs didn’t provide much stimulus for conversation. “Trelewicz would’ve never understood this and Jenkins was always too busy talking to computers.” Call that intuition. “But you, you appreciate the science and the how to of this world. We’re kindred spirits, you and I.”
Ahhh, it all made sense. “That’s why you kept me around, isn’t it?”
“We have similar goals, you and me. I know you don’t approve of my methods most of the time, but you do it to make the city better. Trelewicz and Jenkins were just in it for the fame and fortune.”
We were getting off track. “Back to the aether, what is it?”
“The secret to my power. Aether is the material I was able to splice from my own DNA – think of it as my power in physical form.”
He had broken down his DNA to find the cause of his ability? “Do I even want to know how you did that?”
“Probably not, but it is the most powerful material I can give for this weapon.” Awe and reverence echoed over the phone line. “With it, I’ll keep this city safe. The citizens of Pacific Heights, in time, will understand might equals right.”
I left it at that and said with the information I had; I could get back to work. Walker wished me well and asked for hourly updates through the corporate email, which I said I could do. I was glad to get off the phone with him, as each time we talked he seemed to get further and further off the edge.
That would be a problem for tomorrow. Today’s problem was the fact Walker had found a way to isolate his power in his own DNA and weaponized it. If word of this got out…
I was working well into the late afternoon and early evening when I gave it up for the day. I was close to cracking the code to get the aether to not backfire in the elemental gun. What I needed was some time away and some rest. With a fresh mind, I knew I’d get this thing finished by the deadline.
I had planned to freshen myself up before going to see Heather, but her car was parked outside my place. She knew where the spare key was, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see her in my apartment. What I wasn’t expecting was to see her sitting in the dark like a creeper.
Closing the door, “Hey, what’s with the weird Godfather thing going on.”
“We need to talk.”
This didn’t sound good. “What do we need to talk about?”
She got up, came over to me and hugged me. “My powers Jericho, I know who gave them to me.”
“The Negative Man did.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” She looked at me quite oddly. “I was feeling a bit groggy and haven’t been sleeping well, so I took a nap. The Dark Lion said rest is important for the body to adjust to the manifestation of powers.”
That seemed like sound advice. “That’s good, I think?”
“During my nap, it was weird; I almost felt this connection, something that’d been there since I was exposed to The Negative Man’s powers I guess. Anyway, this power led me to The Negative Man himself. He didn’t know I was there, but I could sense his presence.”
This was getting intense. “Do you know who he is?”
“Yes I do. At first I was really pissed, knowing the identity of the one who did this to me.” I could see it in her face. “But during our little connection, I felt what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to make the city a better place.”
“What are you saying Heather?”
She led me back over to the couch. “What I’m saying is that for the first time in a long time, I have a feeling of purpose. These powers he gifted me with,” her phone, laying on the table lit up before going back to dark, “I think with them, I can help him.”
“Why in the hell would you want to help him?”
She didn’t back down at all. “I’m following my heart, a newfound belief that I discovered through a beautiful connection.”
I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around what she was saying. “This seems like a very rash decision.”
She shook her head no. “What would be rash would be ignoring the feeling of purpose I have.” She grabbed my hand and pulled it close. “I know you know what I’m talking about.”
This wasn’t what I was expecting. “Listen, things are about to get real bad. Spades and The Dark Lion are meeting in Waves Park tomorrow.” I tried to stress how important this next part was. “I need you to stay away from that, no matter how much you think you can help.”
“What are you going to do?”
I created this weapon and it was up to me to make sure it didn’t kill The Dark Lion. “What I have to. I have to make sure Spades fails. The city doesn’t need him to become its savior.”
“You talk like you know him personally.”
I reached into my jacket and dropped my Diamonds mask on the table. “I should. The Dark Lion had me go undercover and infiltrate the group. I’m the one who built Spades weapon of mass destruction.”
Her eyes were big and wide, looking at the red mask sitting there. “All this time?”
“No, just recently, after he killed the original Diamonds. Jenkins was Clubs, but Spades killed him when The Dark Lion found out who he was.”
Neither of us made a move or said anything. There was still a bit of uncertainty in the air, especially with her revelation she knew who The Negative Man was. Knowing one of us would have to end this stalemate, “We can talk about who The Negative Man is and why you’d want to follow him later. I just need your word you’ll stay safe until this is all over.”
I got a little bit of a grin from her. “I can give you that.” She leaned in and kissed me. “When the time comes, show the world the man I know you to be.”
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