Beacons of Hope, Part 2: Enter Saturday!
Following the minor disaster at the Lighthouse, TEAM Chicago, Doktor Teslai n tow, assemble back at the office of Special Agent Kirby to deliver their report. Introductions are made all around as Kirby pores over Tesla's computer analysis of the situation...
"So you're telling me, Doc, that this damage was deliberate?" The grizzled agent sat back in his creaking chair, eyeing the gadgeteer warily.
"Indeed. It appears that by somehow crushing the insulating jacket, which also serves as a channel for magma flow to the reactors, that magma was redirected into the pocket from whence it came, causing a tectonic event. Minor, but as you see from the damage, still quite significant."
ShadowBlade and Judas eye each other, and speak simulataneously:
Prince Titan chimes in with a simple statement himself. "Many good people were hurt that work at the plant."
Kirby sits up, slapping the report back down onto his already overburdened desk.
"Congratulations, heroes...you get the case."
After collecting more evidence, a theory is thrown into the ring -- that the sabotage of the Lighthouse is an inside job, and quite possibly the work of The Architect, the criminal mastermind behind Automatic Kafka, still at large. Though nothing was left behind in the Reaction Chamber, TEAM Chicago veers off on a possible clue: the Wurlitzer radio recovered from the Architect's apartment...the same Wurlitzer that, seemingly, the Architect used to monitor the city of New Chicago through a network of hidden cameras.
Ever mindful of their first attempt to investigate the Architect's technology, TEAM proceeds with the utmost caution. ShadowBlade's ability to phase through matter comes in handy, as she discovers a Gordian knot of booby traps: acid, thermite, and worse. Combining their skills, Doktor
Tesla and Judas work feverishly to disarm the mechanisms, each knowing that a single mistake will eliminate this final clue as to the Archtiect's abilities.
The first layer of traps goes smoothly...only two more to go. The next set nearly results in disaster, a calamity only diverted from its course by Doktor Tesla's use of potent neutralization agents...agents that seem only to slow the decay trigger of the self-destruct.
The last layer proves the hardest...and in the heat of the moment, a slip of the fingers breaks one of the tiny vials of acid, triggering a chain reaction. Most of the components of the Architect's monitor are saved...but only parts. The rest is reduced to ash and inchoate sludge. The lab bench, and the rest of TEAM, are saved from injury by Prince Titan, by the simple expedient of closing his hand over the mechanism.
A few hours' more investigation narrows down the Architect's identity to perhaps a dozen men in the world, but word has yet to return from Washington on the matter, and SA Kirby decides to intervene directly, taking the night train from New Chicago to Washington, leaving TEAM to its own devices, temporarily.
The next day, TEAM heads back out to the Lighthouse from their new headquarters (given to them by Kirby, who seems to have gotten tired of Titan's 'exits' through the walls and roof)...and, as seems to be typical for a day working for Uncle Sam, there's trouble.
From behind the cyclone fence marked with the yellow and black caution signs typical to any industrial site, stand members of New Chicago's elite TAC unit. Before them, held back only by hastily-erected barricades and chain-link are dozens of Lighthouse workers, most from Darktown, the slum that exists in the sole shadow of the marvel of super science that provides the city with light and power. TEAM Chicago puzzles for a few moments -- these are ordinary men and women, no need for a response by the Talent Activity Control.
The mystery doesn't last long, though, as Judas' government-issued sedan noses gently through the crowd. From atop a utility van a lone figure exhorts the crowd, railing against the injustices inflicted upon the working man by the masters of the city. The white masters, he says. The figure is dressed in peculiar fashion: top hat, whiteface in the shape of a skull, vest and tattered tuxedo pants. He is Mister Saturday, vice lord of Darktown and notorious anarchist.
"Not exactly Chicago's most upstandin' citizen," comments Judas, as most of TEAM climbs out of the car.
Tensions are high, as Saturday whips the crowd into an ever increasing frenzy, tensions which only worsen on both sides of the fence. TAC clearly resents TEAM Chicago's presence at the near riot, and the workers, if Saturday is to be believed, have good cause to fear the Talented protectors of the city.
Seeing the situation worsen, Titan takes action from above. Swooping down from the sky and hovering before Saturday, he extends his hand, the hand of friendship. The flaming magma hand of friendship.
"Greetings, friend! What seems to be the problem here!"
Saturday launches into a new tirade, though it's short-lived; Titan's obviously not spoiling for a fight, and reluctantly, Saturday shakes the proffered hand, despite its rather intimidating appearance. Ever the master of manipulation, though, the anarchist turns Titan's gesture of peace to his own advantage:
"See! Do you see brothers and sisters? Even their own men, their super men, know the righteousness of our cause!"
Beyond the fence, fingers tighten on safeties, and the crowd begins to rumble like an impending aftershock. Meanwhile, Judas and ShadowBlade pick their way through the crowd, while Doktor Tesla scans the area or superhuman activity. Unsurprisingly, Titan and ShadowBlade show up...but so does Saturday, and the half dozen minions arrayed around the van. The mood is explosive, all it would take would be a single punch, the spark to ignite an inferno.
A shot rings out, suddenly, seemingly from the direction of TAC! Someone in the crowd cries out, falling, a bullet hole punched high up on his chest!
Titan leaps from the van as the crowd begins to riot, attacking the fence, overturning the barricades. The man is someone he knows, a worker at the Lighthouse, a family man. The massive lava-price bulls his way through the rioters and scoops the injured man up in his arms, rising into the sky and quickly setting a course for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the nearest trauma center.
Meanwhile, down below, Judas and ShadowBlade attempt to quell the crowd by apprehending the firebrand Saturday. Saturday, his job here seemingly done, dives behind the other side of the van as ShadowBlade begins to call upon the divine darkness that is her birthright; and a good thing, too, as Saturday's strangely pale thugs begin to produce firearms.
Back at the car, Doktor Tesla activates his latest creation: the Para-Quantum Talent Neutralization Field! The wily gadgeteer shouts a warning, and Saturday's thugs open fire, neatly missing ShadowBlade and pinging a few pellets from Judas' armored longjohns. Within moments, two of the thugs go down, one felled by ShadowBlade's icy touch, the other knocked insensible by Judas' thundering pistols. But one of the goons gets off a lucky shot, and a TAC member falls, the slug a bright smear of lead across his body armor! The officer begins to panic, finger tightening on the Darrow recoilless submachinegun in his hands...
Out of the corner of his eye, Judas spots the motion...while a burst would surely take out the thugs, there's a good chance that stray bullets will hit the crowd of unarmed rioters. The detective spins, a blur of motion, one pistol trained on the thug who fired, the other on the TAC officer about to open fire. It's an impossible shot, against impossible odds, but two twitches of the finger later, and the thug is slumped, unconscious against the van, and the TAC officer is nursing numb hands, the Darrow gun reduced to scrap.
Doktor Tesla's Neutralization Field discharges, dissipating the protective darkness around his teammate ShadowBlade...but also felling the remaining thugs, whose odd grayish pallor begins to fade almost immediately.
Then all hell breaks loose. The rioters scatter as TAC advances from behind the fence, closing in on TEAM Chiacgo. There's a bit of disgruntled argument between the good Doktor and ShadowBlade, and words are exchanged regarding being careful with one's teammates. Judas, though, is subject to trouble on two fronts -- on one side, local television reporter Mary Chen and her cameraman Robbie, and on the other Captain James Rodriguez, the leader of TAC.
Shouting ensues as TAC attempts to drive off the media presence, the media protests, and Judas is caught in the middle. ShadowBlade and Doktor Tesla step in to aid their comrade as Prince titan returns from the hospital with news of the gunshot victim: serious, but stable. A plea is made by the noble lava-man to the media that all who witnessed the event should pray for the worker's recovery. He's a family man, with two children to support.
In the chaos, Saturday seems to have escaped, through means unknown. A scan of the area reveals lingering traces of Talent-like energy, but little else. Nearby, ShadowBlade calms down Captain Rodriguez, and TEAM proceeds inside the Lighthouse to continue their investigation.
More strangeness ensues as clues are gathered: outside, the bullet that wounded one of the crowd is found -- heavy-caliber sniper's bullet, steel-jacketed. But only steel-jacketed, eliminating another iteration of Automatic Kafka as a suspect. Evidence is bagged, and theories discussed, as Prince Titan and Doktor Tesla look for more evidence inside...
Thanks the the marvel of super-science and Titan's knowledge of engineering, discoveries are quickly made: Titan tests himself against the mangled super-metal, discovering that even his strength, the strength of the Earth itself cannot damage it. The culprit responsible for the sabotage is, Tesla states, therefore stronger than even the mighty Titan...
Stay Tuned for Beacons of Hope, Part 3: Sin and Sin Again!
The greatness of Evil lies in its awful accuracy, for without that deadly talent for being in the right place at the right time, Evil must suffer defeat.