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Dr Archeville

[Time Warp] Iron Logic (Harrier)

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There was an Omegadrone below. He was screaming. Flying overhead as the crowd on the street shouted in terror and fled the grim reminder of the horror of Freedom's past, Caradoc came to a fast decision: he came in low and plowed into the lost drone, plowing both men into the side of a nearby Taco King, the fast food joint already smashed in by looters from the great collapse of the 22nd century. Inside, both of them out of the sight of the crowd, he turned and fired a blast that collapsed the storefront behind them before dropping his disguise. Inside, he tackled the screaming drone. Unbidden, combat lessons came back to him: _Strike beneath the neck. The weak point of the armor is where the head meets the shoulders._ But he wasn't striking to kill today; Harrier had vowed that he would kill no more. Omegadrones were not part of that vow. But Omegadrones didn't scream. Not in words.

 

The man beneath the helmet was pale-faced and shake, tears falling from eyes-too-wide _ocular implants forced beneath the skin_... as he looked up at what he thought was his tormentor. "Do it!" He screamed. "Do it, you metal-faced bastard! I'm not afraid of you anymore, do you hear?"

 

Harrier's metallic face pulled away, revealing the man beneath, and he spoke with urgency as he grabbed the man's arms. "Listen to me! Listen to me!" He hesitated, almost called the man 'subunit', and added, "You're safe! If you can think, if you can talk, the link has been broken! You are safe here! Tell me your name!" he shouted, his metallic voice raised against the emergency as it almost never was. This was no place for his usual humility.

 

"It...it...you're right!" the man cried. And he was human, from his facial features perhaps Euro-Caucasian; his skin the color of one of the front-line drones, not the heavy combat units that Harrier once had been. "It's gone, that terrible voice is..." He took a deep breath, then another, and said, "I...my name is Kurt Waid. I live in Freedom City. I live in Hanover. Yes...I...god..." He shook, all over, his armor clanking. "Get me out of this! Please, get me out of this!" Harrier knew that the sub-units could not live long without their armor, but with his power pike he did what he could, cutting open steel and slicing free the man within. _There are treatments now,_ he thought a little desperately. _Another can be built for him..._

 

"Listen to me, Kurt," said Harrier firmly. "My name is Stephen," he confessed. "I once was like you, a man, taken by the Terminus. But as I am freed, so you are freed. You have been the victim of a temporal anomaly." He'd seen them appearing in the sky over Champions, and gone out to do all he could to make things right. "The armies of Omega have been repulsed from this city. What date is it?"

 

"The date?" Kurt was taking shallow breaths: eventually the residual energy in his diaphragm would fade, and within days he would suffocate without connection again to the power battery in his armor. "It...it's..." He gave a date Harrier knew down to his very bones: the date of the first day of the Terminus Invasion. "I was out shopping with my wife and my kids when those...those damned Omegadrones were suddenly everywhere! I told my family to run and I went the other way to try and ward them off and...and they caught me and they did..." He looked down at himself and shuddered all over, but Harrier's horror was growing.

 

"Tell me about your family," he said suddenly, "tell me what they are like." And he listened, he listened intently as he desperately began to summon his friends by radio, finding them busy, gone, or finally only able to tell him what he already knew of temporal matters. The past could not be changed. Nor could one be plucked from the past, like a soul half-in and half-out of the coil, without terrible consequences. When the current anomalies were restored, all would be as it once had been. _All of it_. And a freed Omegadrone with memories of the future would be dropped into Omega's lap on the first day of the Terminus Invasion. For the future to be saved, the iron logic of time said this man had to die. But...

 

"My wife's name is Jillissa," said Kurt, obviously using her as a beacon to compose himself. "We have a daughter named Hannah, she's twelve, and our son Edward is ten. Jillissa is a nurse at McNider General and Hannah and Edward are kids, they're at...God, what's this going to mean? How long have I been gone?" When Harrier told them, he screamed again, but more in surprise than horror. It had been a very long time since 1993. Before he could speak again, Harrier interrupted him.

 

"Listen to me, Kurt," he said with great firmness. "The process of transformation is irreversible. Though you can be freed from your armor, your body is dependent on it. Your organs have been replaced, and they cannot be replaced in time. You have only a few hours, perhaps days to live. I know this is very hard to hear, but you must understand it, and believe it, or all...all will be lost. Do you understand?"

 

Kurt looked him in the eye, his face stricken for a moment, before finally, reluctantly...he nodded. "I made peace with death when I felt those machines pull me open like a ragdoll. I know I won't get out of this one alive. Will you take me to my family?" It was the question Harrier had been waiting for; it was one he could answer.

 

"Yes."

 

-

 

As hero fought time-lost villain and as time itself warped and changed around Freedom City, Caradoc flew invisibly through the sky, carrying with him his ill, pale companion on a mission to find the family he'd lost twenty years earlier. Harrier knew with the iron logic of an Omegadrone that it was foolish to look: that it was entirely likely the man's family had died with him, or just a little later...but sometimes that iron logic wasn't always true.

 

With a little help from Miss Americana by text message, they found Jillissa Waid, still in Hanover, and by the time they landed she and her adult children were waiting on the lawn for the father they hadn't seen in so very long. Secure in his Caradoc identity, Harrier stood back and watched the reunion as children saw the father they'd lost, as a woman saw the love she'd left behind. Jillissa had eventually remarried, as one might expect, though her second husband was out of the country; their children were married as well, and at a signal from his father Kurt B. Waid came running out of the house to greet his time-lost grandfather. There were tears, and emotion, and meanwhile Harrier was again confirming that nothing could be done. But there was a little time left.

 

They went everywhere, the chaos of the day meaning that no one looked too closely: at the Super Museum to watch the death of the Centurion, at Champions where Kurt could eat a last burger and fries (and later, Caradoc held him as he vomited; as he'd warned him, his stomach was gone...), and Harrier told his own story as well, the grim legacy of the Terminus that perhaps only another Omegadrone could fully understand. It was a long and glorious day until finally, as sun set, Harrier's radio clicked to life. "The anomalies are going away."

 

"...that...that means me, doesn't it?" Kurt was looking at the setting sun on the horizon, leaning against a lampost as his muscles began to fade. "Anomalies going home...and I don't belong here..."

 

"Yes." In his hand, Harrier's pike whined to life. "You know the fate that awaits you. And what that fate would mean for all of us. When you return, Omega will gain knowledge of the future. I cannot allow that to happen."

 

"Or...or maybe they'll just...they'll just kill me." Kurt gave Harrier a haggard smile. "You said that's what...happened to you, right? An...Omegadrone who leaves the hearing of...the voice of Omega is blasted to pieces by the others as a...oh God, that hurts...fail-safe system. Omega won't...know I was there." He slumped to the ground, still sitting, and looked up at Harrier.

 

"Yes. That is what happened to me. But I cannot guarantee the same will happen to you." Disappearing from view, he aimed his pike at Kurt's face. "The iron logic..."

 

"Wouldn't you have...have killed me when we met, if you really believed in that?" He looked at him above the pike. "You let me live before, you...you said, because you wanted proof that the power of...of the Terminus was a lie. If you kill me now, doesn't that mean you believe it's true?"

 

Harrier looked at him, his face invisible behind his armored plate, and tightened his grip on the pike...

 

---

 

Some days later

 

It had taken Stephen Murdock, with his limited research skills, quite a while to get into the library at the Super Museum and into the long, long list of those left missing and dead by the Terminus Invasion of 1993. He went through the pages slowly until finally he found what he was looking for. A man, a name, and a cause of death.

 

Kurt Ross Waid: Killed by Omegadrone. 1993.

 

He studied the words, then with a small sigh, he closed the book. Freedom had triumphed.

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