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Feb 1st 2018


Vision Inc.


The man was extremely scruffy, grey haired, and wild eyes, wearing a lumberjack shirt and jeans complete with builders boots. He was in his fifties, one would guess, but in all honesty, it was hard to tell. He looked crazy. Probably was crazy. And he was certainly just skin and bones, full of wiry energy and vigour. 


In his scruffy hands, a scruffy box. 


"Dude, you gotta let me in! I gotta show this to that Mannequin guy. Like, super important, man! I mean, I guess its super important! Something spooky is happening, and it's like, in his hands! Or whatever you call those things at the end of his arms. You know his arms, like, the thing attached his torso, yeah?"


He looked pretty mad, but he also looked pretty together. Like he had something important to say, and was determined to get through reception and talk to the man himself...

Edited by Supercape
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Hearing the sounds of what appeared to be a common loon Mannequin resigned himself back to his delicate work. He had neither the time nor patience due to several hiccups in his work to be bothered. Thankfully he made it clear to his secretary Janet to not disturb him unless it was necessary.  However Janet was a bleeding heart who couldn't say no at the best of times so Mannequin resigned himself for the inevitable abrupt arrival.

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The man burst into Mannequins office, propelled by wild enthusiasm. 


"Hey! Its you! I mean...holy cheesecakes...its really you! With all your arms and legs and everything...wow! You got no nose, you know that? Or eyes? Holy cheesecakes...no eyes! How do you eat? Man...no cheesecakes!" he said sadly. 


Rambling slowing, but not ablated, he plonked the box infront of Mannequin and opened it. 


"Look at that! Spooky huh!" he declared as he revealed some crumbling blue-cyan ceramics. Or masonry. It was not quite clear. It was crumbling, and it was blue. That was for sure. Quite a nice shade, actually. 


"I mean...can you dig it? I mean...you probably can't right? Can't dig this stuff out of the ground. I mean, its not natural is it? Spoooooky!" he said, throwing his arms around wildly. 


"What do you think? I guessed maybe you made it. Or are made of it. Or both...."

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Staring as the man continued his rambling Mannequin's mind wandered...He remembered the good times only a few moments ago where he didnt have to deal with crazy people or their crazy antics.


"Yes...I can "dig" it. You wouldnt happen to know whats in the box would you? I'd rather know its not full of snakes before opening it...You dig?"

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"Just this stuff...man...." said the wild man, pointing at the blue ceramics. 


"I mean....look at it!"


The blue ceramics remained blue. And ceramic. 


"Crazy, huh? Oh..by the way, I'm Earl. Earl Redwood. I'm, like, an architect. Or at least, I was, till, like, I got fired and stuff. And hit the bottle. But I'm good now. Got a whole new perspective on life!" he said, smiling keenly. 


"I mean, look, right?"


The blue ceramics remained ceramic. And blue. 


But then....


They wobbled, foamed, and melted spontaneously. A few bubbles appeared, popped, and the materials were still again. 


"Crazy, huh?" said the enthusiastic Earl. 

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Seeing the ceramic melt raised Mannequin's hope that this wasn't just a random loon who somehow got past security. He didn't hate the guy or anything far from it. Mannequin enjoyed seeing something new and oddballs well, they were a type of new and different but regardless, if he just allowed anyone into his office he'd never get work done. He couldnt help the guy with being fired but he could help him with this strange ceramic goo.


"This is pretty interesting. Not many things can go from a solid to a liquid that quickly." Stroking his chin mainly out of habit than discomfort. "Hmm, Well might as well take a closer look at it." Mannequin beings to poke and prod at the goop to see if it was stable enough for some of the more heavy lab equipment.

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After prodding it this way, and poking it that, aided and abetted by the splendid facilities of Vision, Inc, and even (slightly) by Earl, who did seem to know a little bit about physics and materials scientists (and might indeed by the architect by training he said he was), Mannequin was able to refine his understanding of the material. 


And it did seem remarkably like the material that he himself was constricted of. Just...reactive. 


It was extremely resistant to impact force, bending like rubber, but still very hard to tear or burn or anything else. And it seemed, it a non-sentient way, alive...not that it could replicate or metabolise, but that it responded in a primitive reflexive way to the environment around it. 


"What did I tell you? What did I tell you?" yelled Earl, pulling his tattered grey hair. "It's spooky, right? I mean...real spooky!"

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Putting it into an airtight Plexiglas container he found himself troubled. It has been many months of tracking down those who stole his work but not a single lead. This substance was very similar to his own and that worried him.


"Earl...Where did you find this? Its very important for me to know. I appreciate you coming to me with this."

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At this, Early became somewhat coy. 


"Its some, like, new building development North of Freedom. Green fields, pleasant non urban landscape, that kind of thing. Top of the range stuff. All cutting edge technology, and building materials, like this stuff..." he pointed at the ceramics. 


"Its only half built yet. But I heard some bad rumours. Workplace accidents and injuries. That kind of stuff. People don't want to work there no more. But they are frantic, you know, the investors. And...here's the really spooky thing. I guess they only have half the workers their now, on major hazard pay, yeah, but still only half what they had..."


He looked frightened. 


"And the damn thing's getting built in half the time!"

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"That doesn't make any sense. Surely if there were that many "accidents" the city's building inspector would shut it down due to unsafe work standards. No...This doesn't add up. If the company has cutting edge tech then they have to follow the same rules and regulations. Clearly they are not. I will investigate further into this but first I will need an hour or so to sees if there is anything online about the place before I go out. Thank you for your help in bringing this matter to me but I got to ask. Why me? I'm nowhere near the popularity of other Heroes or even science heroes, Dr. Deoxy is far more known than I am. So, why my?"

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Earl gave a lopsided grin. "Cos I am crazy" he started, then tapped Mannequin's hard ceramic case. "And because of this..."


"My brain may be half-fried, but I still know my chemistry. Super powered masonry ceramics. And Mannequin. This looked like a good piece fit" he said. "I don't know if I am right, but I'm right, aren't I?" he said, with a wild smirk. 


"You must have spent months, years, probably, on that body of yours. Used and discarded a ton of materials, yeah? Emphasis on discarded. Somebody or something went scavenging, is my guess...." he explained. "So now with all the spooksville going on at the site, I figured you were the man" he concluded, happily. 


The block of blue material crumbled some more, and abruptly, a face appeared on one side. A broad approximation of a face anyway. Like a blind man doing his best mould of what he could feel. 

"the...man...." it gurgled as an echolalia. 


"Whoooa! It never did that before!" gasped Earl. 

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Almost jumping in surprise his head did a literal 180 as he looked at the material. He thanked himself for putting it in a sealed container. Who knows what it could do? Apparently faces it would seem. This was almost certainly his design but for some reason someone or something decided to tamper with it. It either had mimicry or intelligence of some kind. Both horrifying in their own ways. If it was mimicry then how much could it mimic, just sound, or entire objects and people? New ideas about the benefits rushed into Mannequin's mind about all the possibilities to have extremely versatile adapting armor making it self the best for the situation but without strict and careful testing it would take months if not years to have a stable enough version. No, can't be mimicry. The missing tech would need a much higher time frame to achieve such results already so that left only one option...Who ever did this was an idiot. What possible reason would there be to give material thought? Did they just look at a wall one day and feel lonely? He'd understand if it was some type of shape shifting robot but no, they were using this to build buildings. Agitation rose steadily in Mannequin as he was baffled at the clear misuse of his tech. If they were going to steal something they could at least use it properly!


"Earl, I'm going to have to ask for you to stand clear of the container. I am not sure if it is properly contained and would rather be on the safe side." Moving with caution towards the container Mannequin activated several of his labs safety protocols, mainly the fire suppression system. Yes his tech was altered but the fundamentals should be the same. True his ceramic is a marvel of ingenuity with it being highly resistant to blunt, cutting, and various other hazards it still had its downsides. Vibration and cold. Without the proper care the material's bonds will weaken. Not much but enough so that the right about of vibration could start breaking it down back into its goo-like state. Freezing it will speed up the process much more quickly. If the material ever breaks out of the container the lab will be doused instantly in extremely effective coolant. Not enough to hurt Earl but it should stop the material dead in its tracks. With a steady hand Mannequin tapped the Plexiglas and muttered "Do you think?"

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"Hey hey man, no problem!" agreed Earl. "And call me Ratchet. Everyone else does. On account of, you know, me knowing stuff and all..." he grinned happily, and picked his nose. 


"...Do you think..." repeated the face on the block of material, a bit stronger this time. 


"Think...think...think....think....BUILD! BUILD!" it concluded, louder, before entering into a rapid stream of muttering. 


"Assemble assemble construct foundations walls roof reorganise repeat end die" it spewed, before the face crumbled away and the whole block of ceramics appeared to disintegrate. 


"Wow! That was intense!" spluttered Ratchet. "Like, you didn't spike my tea with mushrooms, did you? I heard there is some really freaky mushrooms growing in the subway..." he said, pressing his temple. "Is this a flashback?" he asked, concerned. 

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Well that as an unfortunate outcome. He had hoped that he could get more out of the block before it disintegrated. At least he finally had a lead after so many months. Maybe he will finally be able to bring those who killed his father to justice.


"No Ear- Ratchet, I didn't give you drugs. I'm going to have to head out if I want to get to the bottom of this so unfortunately you need to go home. Do you have a phone number I can contact you with if the need arises? Thank you again for bringing this to me."

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"You can shove that up your other mouth. You know, the one between your legs...err....maybe not. I guess you don't have the other mouth any more, do you? Damn. That's neat. I mean, that's literally neat. Clean, you know?" he garbled. 


"Anyway, I ain't going nowhere, nohow, noway" he said defiantly. "I mean, I worked on this site, you see? I may not be an architect no more, but I gotta earn money. And construction is where I am at these days. Waste of my goddamn talents but nobody else wants to hire a crazy" he explained. 


"So I am invested in this, ya see? Besides which, this is the most freaky ass trip I have had since '98. And let me tell ya, I dropped some crazy in '98. So I ain't gonna walk away from this. Ya can go without me, but I'm going anyhow. Or Ill drive ya. My pick up truck starts at least two times in three. At least. Maybe three times in four...!"

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The weight of empathy weighed hard on Mannequin. He really didn't want to take the guy with him but he had nowhere to go and probably no phone either. It wouldn't do for a hero to bring people into danger but this guy was crazy enough to follow him regardless of harm. Maybe it would be best to let him tag along, atleast that way he can keep a close eye on the loon.


"Fine, I really don't like the idea of you going into possible harm but you'd just follow me regardless. Just please try to be careful. I can do many things but I can only keep you safe so much."

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And so...a little later....


Ratchet drove the "Ratchetmobile", which miraculously started after a few false starts. It seemed to be made of rust, held together by dirt. One had the distinct impression that if you looked at it too hard, the engine would fall out. 


Out of town, "Autolife Residential Homes" was the destination. It was a somewhat dusty affair, on dusty roads, off the beaten track. Full of dirt and all the machines one would expect in a construction site. Several lorries stood parked. 


Ratchet stopped outside. There was a wire fence around, and one bored security guard reading a trashy magazine at the gate, waving the odd lorry in and out. There wasn't to be honest, much activity. Some construction was taking place, but the buildings were only half built, and everyone looked tired and slow. The only building completed seemed to be the hub of the operation, a small office, with some fancy cars parked outside. 


"Here ya go, dude" whispered Ratchet, although they were well out of earshot. "Careful, they have a security guard!" he whispered even more quietly. 


The security guard continued reading her magazine in a bored manner. 

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"I doubt the guard will just let us in without a fuss. Hmm, I could briefly hit him with Sense Prevention Haze to blind him just long enough for us to get past him. We'd have to move quickly though. Id ask if you could stay out here but you'd probably just say no so what I do ask is that you do what I say and be careful. Are you ready to go?"

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"She probably won't" agreed Ratchet. "A Sense prevention haze seems pretty darn awesome. What does that do? Is it....like a haze? which prevents senses?" he asked. 


"Sound pretty spooky, if you ask me. In a good way, man. A good way. And, after all, this is some seriously spooky stuff. Man, did I tell you about this cube that grew a face and started speaking, man..."


He slapped his forehead. 


"...wait, wow, that was with you, yeah? Man, my memory is fried sometimes, man!" he muttered. 


"This haze thing. Wouldn't that just blind the guard? I mean, she couldn't see us, but she couldn't see anything. Going blind might like freak her out or something..."

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True she might freak out abit but Im rather big so its not quite so easy to sneak around at times. Maybe you'd be willing to distract her? If so I can sneak by but that leaves you. Wait, didn't you say you worked here before? Would they still allow you in? If so you might be able to just say Im some sort of construction tool."

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"Yeah, sure. They, err...they might have fired me for being you know, a little bit crazy, and maybe a little bit going to whistleblow on the whole thing" said Ratchet, wringing his hands. 


"When I found that stuff, I took it to the boss. He set Hettie on me. Hettie the hammer, she is called. I swear she is eight feet tall and could bend steel with her ass cheeks. And she is pretty good and swinging that hammer. At bricks and stuff, sure. But also onto kneecaps" he explained. 


"But I do still know this place well. I can get us in round the back. If you can snip the wires, or something. Or I could hotwire one of the trucks and just drive over everything. And everybody. that would be cool, right?"


"The Boss, he is a slimy toad. Mister Brick. Expert in setting up cheaply built housing at expensive prices, if you know what I mean...."

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No! It is not ok to commit vehicular manslaughter. Getting us around back is fine. Anything besides killing people is a better option right now. Also sounds like I shall become antiquated to Mister Brick and Hettie very soon. Just get me in and I can short the wires for us."

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"Man, can't even murder someone slightly these days. And who said it was manslaughter anyway? You know, you are driving a fully loaded truck. Maybe the breaks fail. Maybe you have to swerve several times to hit, I mean avoid, the target?" he grinned. 


"No?..well I guess that means..."


And a moment later, very nearby......


Round the back, the wire fence was there but pretty easy to cut through. Ratchet even had some cutters in the Ratchetmobile he had brought along (alongside a spanner and a swiss army knife). 


The control centre...the little prefrab building in the centre of the complex, was some way away. There were various half finished buildings dotted around in various states of completion, although none were complete by any measure. 


"Look, there..." pointed Ratchet at one precisely half built building. "That's where I found that blue cube thing...damn....I swear the building has built itself...." he muttered. "Its bigger than yesterday...and look..." he added, noting the "KEEP OUT! HAZARDOUS MATERIALS!" Signs and tape all around it. "They put that up too..."


"We could go through that building. Ain't nobody going to bother us there" he pondered. "Although we are probably going to breathe in some arsenic or something. Otherwise, we can pick our way through the other buildings, under cover of darkness..." he grinned. 


Then looked at the clear sky and bright sun. 


"Well, maybe not so much darkness. But this place is half deserted. Probably won't be spotted. Probably...."

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Not having any shred of hope that Ratchet is anything but subtle or stealthy mainly due to the fact that he practically yelled when he read the hazard signs Mannequin instantly dropped the idea of sneaking around the other buildings. Any hazardous substance in there will have no effect well for Mannequin that is. Maybe he could convince Ratchet to stand guard and keep a lookout?


"I say we try the place you found it first. If it looks bigger than yesterday then hopefully the stuff is still there. Plus we don't have to worry about others. Think you can stand point outside and watch my back as I go in? Would be a problem if someone got the jump on us and I trust you and your watchful gaze to keep us safe."


He didn't really trust Ratchet to be responsible or really keep focused on the matter at hand but maybe playing up to him will convince him to do it. At least, he hoped it would.

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"Ummm...yeah...ah...sure...." muttered Ratchet, glum and miserable. "I mean...I can. I don't want to. But I suppose its better than a lungful of arsenic or having my knees shattered by Hettie" he conceded. "I'll just hang back. Have a smoke. Don't you worry, I'll come if you run into problems!" he smiled, trying to infuse some enthusiasm back into his bones. 


And so...


The mysterious building was full of dust and the bones of a building. The walls and ceiling where largely there, but it was easy enough to walk through, what with door frames without doors, and incomplete walls. 


The materials used certainly looked odd. Perhaps not such a fragrant rip off derived from Mannequins own ceramics, but pretty close. There was the occasional creak, or groan, as if the house was actually moving...


Which, in fact...it was!!!!


From the walls around, a tumble of masonry and ceramic material cascaded onto Mannequin. 


"Intruder...Anomaly....Rebuild..." came a hissing voice, which reminded Mannequin very much of the hissing voice at Vision Inc, from the face on the box. Virtually the same, really....

Edited by Supercape
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