"I'm sorry ma'am, but he is extremely busy. I can't let you see him without a scheduled appointment."
Rei stared coldly at the secretary in the S.H.I.E.L.D. building's main lobby. "I don't want nor do I need an appointment. Just tell me where his office is, and I'll do the rest."
"I don't believe you're understanding correctly. He doesn't see anyone unannounced."
"Then page him while I'm on my way."
"It doesn't work that way. And even if you could just walk up there, I doubt he will take time out of his demanding schedule to converse with a teenager. I'm sure your parents are looking for you. Please run along, now."
Rei thought for a minute. She was hoping to come up with another idea other than reaching across the desk and strangling the secretary.
"All I'm wanting is to ask for an apprenticeship. Why do I need to set a date to ask a simple question?"
"Or you can just fill out an application like everyone else?"
"I can, but doesn't it look better on me if I'm more interested in hands-on experience than typing some personal information on a computer screen?"
The secretary sighed. "You know what? I'll let him deal with you. Third floor from the top, second to last door on the right."
Rei smirked with satisfaction and walked toward the elevator. When she stepped on, the speakers were lightly playing "Jukebox Hero." She made a mental note to hit Bard when she met back up with him.
The entire elevator was made of acrylic. She could see the floors as she passed by them. On the other side there was heavy machinery moving more heavy machinery. Some men in white coats were testing various weapons and other equipment. There was an incomplete armor that looked identical to Rei's. Some more men were standing in front of it. It appeared as if they were arguing.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened with a light ding!. She looked around. There were a few researchers walking into and out of doors. Thankfully it wasn't too crowded. She walked to the right and counted as she walked by. Second to last. She stood for a moment. She wasn't sure whether to knock or just walk in. She shook off her conscience and opened the door.
The room was much more spacious than she pictured. It was probably as open as her house was, that is if you'd removed all the inner walls and staircase. There were tables lined with gadgets and gizmos, guns and other neat equipment. In the middle there was a structure that looked like a giant lava lamp. In front of it was a desk. A man sat in front of it with the chair facing away from the entrance and was talking on the phone. He hadn't appeared to notice Rei come in. She shut the door carefully behind her and approached him. Rei walked up to the desk. A conversation could be heard.
"...what do you mean they're canceling the project? Because of one incident? I thought it was cardiac arrest? Hmm? So it's been confirmed that someone was involved? That was only for sake of public announcement? Well alright. What they say goes then." He turned in his chair. His eyes lifted and caught Rei standing in front of him. He placed his palm over the end of the phone. "Hold on just a minute there, miss." He went back to his conversation. Rei rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.
"So let me get this straight: because it's associated with criminal activity now, the military is wanting to cut ties with the Phoenix project? What are you talking about we should have made it to where only the general could have worn it? They put the damn thing together all we did was sent them the parts. Well tell them I'll revoke the contract, but if they start accusing me of anything I'm filing a law suit. That's great, I'm gonna have to go, I'm with someone right now."
Rei began to get severely aggravated. "Is this going to be much longer? I'm on as tight a schedule as you are."
"Just one more second, babe."
Rei lifted an eyebrow. Babe?
"Look, I've really got to go. No, I told you what to tell them. Stop worrying about what they say. Ok, you know what I'm just gonna hang up. You have a good day. I said you have a good day." He placed the phone back on the receiver. "I wasn't expecting company until later tomorrow. Are you…" He began to flip though holographic screens that floated above his desk. "…a Mr. Chuck Norris LXXVI?"
Rei's eyebrows came together. She placed both hands on his desk and leaned forward. "Do I look like a Chuck Norris to you?"
"Well, let's see I might be looking at the wrong date…"
"I told your man downstairs that I don't have an appointment. I'm here on urgent business."
He pressed a screen and it faded. "I see. Well while you're here, what can I do for you?"
"I need you to tell me everything you know about something. You have ties to the military, right?"
"I do, but what exactly are you wanting to know?"
"I believe that I've had a rather dreadful encounter with a few rogue soldiers."
"Really? I don't believe I see where this is going. And aren't you a bit young to be here on your own? Where are your parents?"
"Taken by rogue soldiers. That's why I'm here. Now, I need you to tell me everything you know about a black uniform, red trim, and a logo that looks like a bull."
He rolled his eyes. "Oh God not THOSE thugs. They've been bothering me for parts for a few years. Well up until they were all dishonorably discharged…"
"So you do know these men?"
"Magnum Chaos? Too well. Back when I was in the military, they didn't exist, but I knew some of the people that made up of it while it lasted. They all wore an armor that was the latest thing at the time. It was all black and red with yellow innerglow. About half a year before I retired, they formed the group they now call 'Magnum Chaos' and made changes to that armor. They gave it horns to look like the devil and fixed somekind of device to surround it in a radioactive field that causes damage to anything close to it. They also redesigned it to be resistant to the same effect. They named their group after the armor, which was called Chaos ever since the thing was made. Ugly piece of work. After I retired I'd finished my education and built this place. Then they stated asking for parts. Then few years later, they were all caught building atomic reactors to convert regular rocks into powerful mithril concentrates. It was a seemingly neat concept, but it caused the city to be nearly overrun by aliens. They got most of their stuff confiscated. Not too much longer then they were busted for making some kind of device that drew energy from mithril and turned it into an amplified laser. It was supposed to be a huge machine that took energy from a single source and converted it into explosive energy that would then be concentrated through a laser from space and launch it to whatever target blah, blah, blah. They got caught when their machine exploded. Their excuse was building some super weapon that would destroy the entire alien race in one fell swoop. Courts-Martial said it was way too dangerous and they were discharged. Then it's said they were left murmuring something about needing a power source more powerful than mithril. That's pretty much a summery of their story. After like, twelve years of silence, they suddenly come out of nowhere. I'm surprised they're still formed…so they just took your parents? Just like that?"
Rei continued to stare. "Yes. Just before they came, Mom and Dad told me that they were after me, and helped me get away. But only at the cost of being captured themselves. And possibly…" She held her tongue.
"After you? Why would they…"
The phone rang again. He picked it up. "Yes, hello? You'd better have a good reason… The police? Here? For what? Ok then for whom? In here?" He looked at Rei and gently set the phone back down. "It seems you've brought some friends with you."
Rei swore in her mind. She was thankful for what little information she had, but she couldn't afford to let him spill the beans about her being here. She reached out and placed her hand on his.
"I don't have any hard feelings toward you," she said, "but unfortunately I need you silenced."
She attempted to draw energy from his body. Sweat began to bead on her forehead. She gasped and took her hand off of his.
"I'm flattered ma'am, but I think holding hands might be a bit early in forming a relationship. As you can see, I have plenty of equipment for many different things." He pulled the sleeve of his shirt back, revealing a transparent plating of some sort. "I'm always prepared. I wear a Force Shield at all times to protect myself from witches like you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't have the policemen escorted up here?"
"Because I want my parents back, and I'll do anything it takes to get them back. Even if I have to take countless lives to get there."
"Hmm." He was deep in thought. "Silence me by touch…It's all starting to make sense now. They wanted a power source, so they came after him hoping that they'd get her…who can…and that means…" He looked back up and smiled. "Ahhh why didn't I see it before. Last time I'd seen you you were maybe six, possibly seven years old? How are your parents by the way? I mean prior to current events that is? Have they been well since we last met?"
Rei blinked. "You…know them? And…me?"
"That's right, Rei. I know who you are and everything about you. Including your unorthodox little vampire touch."
Rei began to sweat more profusely. She turned and ran for the door. Pressure locks slammed over it and sealed it tight right as she'd gotten to it.
"Well let's not be hasty, Rei. It's been far too long. We need to catch up."
"I don't know you! Why don't I remember you?!"
"You were only a child. You probably don't remember a lot of things from that early. Your parents just moved out to a farmstead after I'd last seen you. You were just a little girl. Were you still living out in the country?"
Rei knew there was no point in arguing. She had no way out. "Yes…those men just showed up and Dad told us to run. Then Mom said she had to go too. The military wouldn't help me, so I've only got myself to rely on."
"So I'm guessing you are the person matching the description in the story about General Zan dying and theft of his property?"
"Yes." She activated the armor program. The Phoenix armor now encased her body, only her long hair hung out. "I'd taken the armor I'm assuming you were talking about."
"Ah yes that would be the Phoenix prototype. The actual production model was going to be black and red though…"
Rei chanced the subject. "Tell me one more thing: where are these men? Magnum Chaos. Where do they operate from?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I had no idea they were still together. Chances are Ladon is still in charge. Although I'm glad that you'd came to tell me about it. Pity those brilliant minds were all wasted on pointless ideals. And I'm glad to see you again." He smiled.
Rei sighed. "So are you going to let me out? Or are you just going to wait until the law arrives?"
"I'm not waiting on anything. Unless you have anymore questions?"
"Well, too bad this reunion was short lived. But also I understand that you need to get going. Here, take this."
He tossed something to Rei. It was a small chip no bigger than the end of Rei's thumb.
"That's got software that will let you form ammunition using less energy. It'll knock off about twenty percent of your energy consumption. It can be inserted in the small slot they rests above the wrist plating on the right arm. And I'm assuming you have weapons?"
"I have all I need." She didn't want to sound rude. "Umm…thank you, though. And thanks for the information."
He laughed. "Don't mention it. I have a personal lift in the corner over there. You can use that. I'll take care of the police. Do be careful, and good luck."
Rei nodded and ran.
The clock struck five minutes after six. Bard waved as Rei ran toward him.
"Hello there! Why in a hur -- gah!"
She grabbed his arm and pulled. "No time, we need to go NOW!"
"Huh? Where to?"
"Anywhere other than here!"
They ran toward the outskirts of the city, an took cover deep within the woodline.
"Ok, so what's going on?" He asked.
"That news report we'd seen earlier was only for public convenience. I'm definitely on the Most Wanted list now."
"So the police know who you are?"
"Don't think so, but they know what I look like."
"…cut and dye your hair?"
"…" Rei took a minute to escape into her thoughts. The very moment when she had seen everything, from them breaking down the door, to being pursued by panthers, to cruelly being denied a search and rescue party. Anger welled deep within Rei. It was beginning to surface.
"No. I could careless if the world knows who I am or not. I hope this entire wretched planet runs from the very sight of me."
Bard went silent for a moment and then sighed. "Well so much for staying under the radar." He smiled. "But I do love an actress who plays her part seriously."
"…So what did you find out?"
His smile widened. "Absolutely nothing~♪."
"Nothing at all?"
"Well partially my fault. I'd forgotten to ask what these men looked like. I just looked through old military manuscripts and whatnot, but nothing concerning evil soldiers who kidnap parents. Although, I managed to find quite a few lovely ladies that seemed interested my cowl. I told them I wear it to add to my mysterious complexion, because it works on charming young women every time, haha!"
Rei raised an eyebrow. Bard shrugged, as if he'd seen Rei through her visor. "Ok. Almost every young woman. But wait a couple years and you just might change your mind~♪."
Rei ignored him. "In other news, I managed to learn that it was a group calling themselves 'Magnum Chaos'. They operate under some guy named Ladon. Unfortunately that's all I managed to find out."
"Where did you uncover that information?"
"From the head dude in the S.H.I.E.L.D building. He seemed to know what I was talking about. And he knew who I was…"
"He knew you? What was his name?"
"It was…" Rei frowned. It was the best lead she'd had so far, and she never asked for his name. "I needed to get out so quickly I didn't think to ask…"
"So we know who they are. Or sort of. But what about WHERE?"
"No telling. They were supposed to have been disbanded years ago. And apparently only I know of their existence."
Bard nodded. "I see. But no matter! Now we have something to go by~♪! So, what's our next step?"
"Getting out of this city…"
"Oh? You're awake!"
"Ugh…where…where am I?"
"I don't know. How do you feel?"
"I'm sorry you had to be involved in this mess, dear."
"I…" Her eyes widened. "REI?! WHERE IS SHE?!"
"Relax, Rei is --"
"Don't tell me to calm down! Is it too much to ask how my baby is doing?!"
"She is safe for now. She isn't here with us."
"She's…not here…so it's only us being held captive?"
"No need to overreact. Everything will be alright. I promise."
"As long as my Rei is safe…"
The sound of a lock clicking echoed. Ladon proceeded into the room.
"Ah, good timing. I now have both of your attentions."
"Who are you?"
"Ladon. What kind of torture do you have planned for me next?"
Ladon laughed. "Oh don't worry. I've got plans for you. As for who I am, my name is Ladon. I've already had a rather interesting conversation with your husband."
"Why are we here?"
Ladon looked at her. Then he exchanged glances with her husband. "Would you like to tell her, or should I?"
"We're hostages, and he wants to know where Rei is."
"Rei? How should I know where she is by now?"
Ladon chuckled. "Well it's obviously clear I'll never get an answer out of either of you. So, I took your wonderful advice sir, and I thought I'd start searching myself. Obviously I'm not sending men aimlessly looking. I've taken the time develop these. Bring them in!"
Several men brought in four capsules, that were large enough for someone to stand inside. They were on hover platforms, and were completely blacked out, save for a rhombus-shaped window on the front. A bright blue light radiated from it, making it unclear what was inside. One of the henchmen handed Ladon a smaller capsule that was only as big as a coffee maker. Ladon removed what was inside. He held a worm-like creature that had a large maw, and long pointed teeth. It was snapping its jaws aimlessly.
"Can you tell me what this is?" Ladon asked.
"It's a speedling larva." The man said.
"Yes, how very smart you are!"
His wife interjected. "Just what do you plan to do with that? Creating giant versions?"
Ladon chuckled. "In a sense."
He placed the larva into the back of one of the capsules. Then he gave the order to open them.
"You see, with modern day technology and the infusion of mithril, we can do almost anything these days. We've been researching alien behavior to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This way we can understand the best way to defeat them. Once we learned of Rei's strange power, it immediately clicked for us. We can draw the energy from aliens all at once, and use that energy to create electricity, water, or even mithril substitutes. It would solve any energy shortage in one fell swoop! But you apparently don't see it that way, and let her escape. One other thing we found out is their uncanny ability to sniff out mithril like a shark to blood. So, without further ado…"
The capsules opened with a deep hissssssssssssss. When the smoke cleared, four humanoid figures we standing in front of each capsule. They were clad in jet black armor, with blue innerglow.
"Let me introduce you two to the Black Hole series. These are highly sophisticated combat suits that are meant to house the larva of a speedling. It's a lot of explaining, but in short the internal systems heighten the intelligence of the speedling and give it the same motor skills as that of the most capable human being. It also allows translation of the human speech, as well as the ability to speak as such."
Ladon pulled something from his pocket. He held it out, and the Black Hole units passed it to each other, holding to their "noses".
The woman growled. "That's one of Rei's shirts!"
"My men took it from her room they'd told me. With this, they can sniff out Rei relentlessly. Not to worry, they will find her. Now units, move out!"
After dealing with a rather annoying secretary, I managed to work my way up to the president of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Company. He gave me only a small amount of information, but it was enough to tell me who I'm looking for. Sadly, I'll have to locate them myself. And now thanks to my earlier encounter with the General, police will be following me every step of the way. In spite of Bard's suggestion to alter my appearance, I refuse. Humanity shall know who I am, and fear my very presence. But that man, the president, he already knew who I am…better than I even know myself. I was in such a rush I never got his name. Just who is that man? He must have been close with Mom and Dad…