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Dr Archeville

Homeland Insecurity [IC]

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April 9th, 2011. Continued from here.

Okay, so, we are out having a nice dinner wen it was interrupted by a Terminus-hunting robot, which -- understandably -- freaks Mona out. But I am not letting her face this alone!

Good thing I can track her power dampers!

A tiny pinpoint in the sky above Freedom appeared, rapidly expanding to a sphere that disgorged Doktor Archeville. A moment of freefall passed as his Belt switched from 'warp gravity to create wormholes' mode to 'warp/cancel gravity to fly' mode, but soon enough he was bobbing along in the air, and not far from where Mona was.

"Hey!," he called out to her, "hey, hold up, liebchen!"

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Mona didn't know where she was going really. Her northerly course initially targeted Viktor's house, then ArcheTech and finally nowhere. She didn't know where to go. Somewhere to clear her head definitely, but all the familiar places just didn't feel right. Not even her parents' house felt inviting. Finally, she settled for the place she felt safest in the entire city.

The giantess came in for a landing on the shoulder of Sentry Statue. She turned to Viktor as she did and sat down heavily. Leaning against the metal, she said weakly, "Hi, sweetie."

For better or worse the tears were gone. Probably as much from the journey as any emotional easing. Which itself was a double-edged sword. Viktor knew how she reacted to bad situations like this one. She went through the usual stages rapidly, maybe a few tears or angry words, and then she'd retreat. She'd clam up and put on a stoic face until she could deal with the burden by herself. Normally, throwing herself into her art came first, and may well have explained why such an athletic person picked such a sedentary occupation.

In any event, she just looked tired.

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Archeville flew to her, hovering up so he was eye level with her, and put his arms around her, hoping to offer some measure of comfort.

Poor Mona. But she should not be sad, she should be happy -- we did awesome work back there!

After a few moments of just holding her quietly, he pulled back a bit so he could look her in the eye. "We made a pretty good team back there," he said, smiling, trying to get her to focus on the positives, "no serious injuries, worse was a waiter with a broken leg. We did good, liebchen. Do not lose sight of that."

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Mona smiled weakly and looked down, "We did didn't we? Guess that makes us an official battle couple," she replied quietly.

"I'm just glad no one was seriously hurt or killed. The Bistro is ruined though," she continued, resignation in her voice. She looked up at him, sighed, and shook her head.

"It's not the fight, Viktor. Not really. It's dragging bystanders into my problems. Which is exactly what happened," she said firmly, looking him right in the eyes. "You know I'm not the type of person to angst. I just can't honestly figure out how to prevent more problems than I create. I don't want to put people at risk with preventable dangers."

"AEGIS will open an investigation into this incident, Viktor. Just about anyone could connect the robot to me. It didn't just fly through town and blow up that wall for nothing," said the paragon, nodding to herself before adding, "You know me. I'd rather tackle a problem head on than at an angle. I'm thinking about going public before AEGIS or some blackmailer." She squeezed his shoulders and nodded firmly.

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"Timothy's can be rebuilt," he said, placing a hand to her face. "The damage was confined to the front half or so of the building, the kitchen was untouched. I am sure they have insurance, and what it does not cover, I am sure some... concerned and loyal customers could help foot the bill," he flashed a quick smile.

Oh, I bet I could talk to Ace and have him get AEGIS to foot the bill!

He sighed, "this is something many of us face at some point, liebchen -- damage to those around us. And I do not just mean villains threatening the hero's loved one -- we seem to be lightning rods for trouble. There will always be dangers we do not see coming, that we cannot stop from coming, and in those cases we do exactly what we did this day: we do what we can to mitigate them, to save innocent lives."

"Oh, I know there is going to be an investigation on this -- and if I am not in on it," he said defiantly, "I am going to make sure Ace Danger is, so he will fill me in on every second of it. People will be held responsible, I swear it."

Erik Turner will not get away with this!

"Go public? Like Psyche did last summer?" He was silent a moment, "there are pros and cons to that, certainly. Though your situation would be markedly different given whose cape you wear." Another moment of silent thought, "I would suggest talking with Albright, but she has been laying low since January; she was working with and training under El- under the Scarab," he quickly caught himself, "but I do not know if that is still the case."

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Mona snorted, "AEGIS should get the bill. The renegade robot is their responsibility anyway," she replied, her body language brightening somewhat from the conversation. "Don't you even think about it, buster. You have enough obligations, but...thank you anyway."

"I know trouble will follow us by our very natures, Viktor. Doesn't mean the pain is any less intense. You just accept that bad things will happen, and you can't help everyone. A very painful reality but one in which I gladly choose to live." She smiled again, more honestly this time.

"I want no acts of vengeance," she said with dead seriousness, until her eyes lit up and she snickered, "I sound like Don Corleone. Honestly though, this incident could have been an accident, and given the very public circumstances, I suspect that is the case. I don't want justice to go overboard. That's just as much of an injustice."

"It's a thought. Going public that is. One part of me wants it out in the open, and another part of me wants to keep it private. Technically it's confidential medical information, but at the same time I don't want to act like I'm ashamed of who I am." She nodded firmly and furrowed her brow, "I'm Fulcrum. I guard the innocent and battle the wicked. Whether my powers come from the Terminus or Diet Coke, I won't let that stop me. You know far better than I though what a reputation means."

She nodded in thought, "I remember that. Lots of rumors for several weeks. Did you hear anything specifically about her? I may have to visit with her," she said, noting the hesitation in Viktor's speech. "Yeah, wearing the cape would be a benefit, even if the original has been at the Super Museum for over a year. I wish they'd finish authenticating the thing."

"That's another point though. I know my circumstances are different, but if I can use my reputation, maybe I can help some of these Terminus kids. If a high-profile hero starts advocating for them, perhaps they'll organize or at least know they're not bad people or dealing with their problems alone." A disbelieving chuckle followed. "I never thought I'd see the day when I was a high-profile hero, but I suppose I am now aren't I?"

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"I do hope this was an accident," he said, still chuckling at her impromptu Godfather impersonation, "I would much rather attribute this to stupidity rather than to malice. Or to Malice, for that matter."

Micheals has been laying low for many months. What could he be up to? I would like to hope he has gone on the straight and narrow, but such turns are few and far between, and he had such hate in his heart I am not sure that would be possible.

A shame he does not use his mind for awesome heroics instead!

"And, yes, I do know the perils and pitfalls -- and rewards -- a reputation can bring, which is why I am so overcautious, liebchen." He flew close in again and stroked her cheek tenderly, "Your skin may be invulnerable, but your heart is not. Well, technically it is, all your organs are-" He paused, stopping his tangent, "You care about people, and about what they think; you are very empathic, a quality that helps you both in your artwork and your hero-ing. Heroine-ing? Ah, point is, if you do go public, I would want to make sure you are prepared for the negative backlash you may get."

"Now, as for whether or not I think you should go public, and become a leader figure for the 'Terminus Children,' I see two most likely ways this would unfold, based on your existing ties to Centurion. One," he held up a finger, "they see that a Child of the Terminus can be as noble and selfless as Centurion, and remain as uncorrupted by its power as he was by his, and laud you for all you have done and the example you set for others. More would rally to you, but more would also rise against you as they seek to embody the ideals of Omega and seek your destruction. Two," he held up a second finger, "they see you tarnishing the legacy of the man killed by the Lord of the Terminus, or as someone trying to play both sides of the field, trying to draw support from Centurion's fans and Omega's nihilistic cultists."

Those are the two main outcomes I see, though with scores of permutations. But this should suffice for now.

Future predicting is fun! I should do it more often!

"Whatever you end up deciding, though," he lowered his two finger and brushed them over the center of her chest, then opened his hand and laid it over her heart, "I will support you, 100%." He moved forward and gently pressed his lips to her.

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"You always know how to relax me," replied Fulcrum a bit dreamily after the kiss. And indeed the tension seemed to drain out of her body. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders languidly.

"You're right. Too many potential outcomes. I'd better think over this decision more carefully and not act rashly," she said after a moment. "I considered some of those outcomes, but not all of those variables. Yes, I'll have to think about this more."

Smiling to him, she continued, "Although a big reason to stay undercover is to protect you and the Interceptors. Their really starting to build a solid CV, and I don't want to tarnish that. As you, well, you know I'd protect you regardless of the consequences. Your heart isn't invulnerable either, but thank you so much for your support."

"By the way, how did you find me?" she asked in curiosity. "None of that 'I'm Dr. Archeville!' stuff either. I know I'm a big target, but I can't be that easy to track."

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"Well...," he began, a playful smile on his lips and a mischievous glance in his eyes, "I am that good. But!," he held up his hands defensively, as if doing so could stop her should she choose to swat at him, "you are wearing some of my tech, which I take some pains to monitor, so there was a... cheat. And then there is your Interceptors' communicator, the frequency of which I am very familiar."

Should I tell her the rest? She should know -- she likely suspects, anyway -- and keeping it from her would be dishonest.

His face darkened a bit, "there... there is something else, too. The levels of Terminus energy your body has been emitting -- the same energy that robot tracked to find you -- has, well, steadily increased over the past several months. The dampers I made for you have been able to compensate, but eventually I am going to have to replace them with something stronger. Though, ah," a grin returned, weakly, "I should be able to make them so they remain as eyecatching as ever."

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"Ever humble too," she teased, deciding not to swat at him, smiling instead, "but that makes sense. I'm surprised my communicator survived the impact." At which she dug out the small device and checked it over. Yes, intact!

Perhaps strangely, her mood didn't darken at this new information. She nodded and said, "I knew the levels were increasing. I've been getting that same strange queasy feeling I had the night of the boxing matches. When Dark Star put up a containment field around me. I didn't say anything because the parameters are easily adjustable, and like you said, they're still compensating for now."

"I'm sure you will," Mona replied to his latter statements. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she gave him a quick kiss, "Don't overdo it on my account. Things will fall into place in their own time. I've come to accept, even embrace, that I'm a bit 'radioactive'. Being empowered by the Terminus, well, sucks, but it does come with some advantages."

"If my power is really from the Terminus. I've been reading over the test results you've compiled, and I'm wondering why my 'frequency' doesn't match normal Terminus energy." A puzzled look came over her face, but she gave Viktor another quick kiss. "So much to do."

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"I have a few hypotheses on that," he exclaimed, the familiar twinkle of Science! lighting in his eyes.

This may actually cheer he up some I hope!

"First is that yours is different because you were infused not by the random seepages of the Terminus, but by the energies of Omega himself. The energies had to be more concentrated within him, and so likely at a tighter wavelength. Additionally," he nodded towards the statue they stood (well, floated) before, "there is Centurion's presence to consider. He had been exposed to countless types of inter- and extradimensional energies, and some of those surely would have altered the Terminus energies which flowed into you, and thus the energies your body now generates."

Ah, how I wish I had had the chance to study him while he was with us! But, alas, it is too late now.

"Of course, there is still so much unknown about the so-called 'Children of the Terminus' that it is possible," he gave an exaggerated shrug, "each and every one of them operates on a subtly different frequency!"

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"You always know how to cheer me up," replied Fulcrum, "What you say does make sense though. I still swear I saw two waves of energy from the point of impact between Omega and Centurion. Maybe they did both have an influence on my powers after all. Although the other hypothesis does seem more likely given the almost unimaginable amount of power Omega wielded."

"Perhaps they do. In a way I wonder if the Children of the Terminus aren't really powered so much by the Terminus as, I don't know the terminology, mutated by it. I wonder if the exposure didn't really leave any lasting energy, or energy generation, but instead left only lingering alterations that developed into full-blown powers," she pondered as much to herself as Viktor. "All solid possibilities. The problem is acquiring the data isn't it? The Albright Institute probably has a fair amount..."

She shrugged and continued, "In any event I can feel myself changing. I swear it's like going through puberty all over again. Day-to-day some new normal appears, and the more I think about it, the more excited I am. Some new surprise will pop up, or I'll be that much tougher or stronger. I'll never have Dark Star's power, but I may have Omega's."

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"Yes, I think Centurion may have acted as a, a filter for Omega's energies," he replied, eyes still alight, "shaping those energies so that whoever received them would manifest powers similar to his own!"

I wonder if any other metahumans would produce such an empowerment? Probably not, they both are - well, were, in Centurion's case - fairly unique entities.

"As for the Children -- I really should try and devise an alternate name, 'Children of the Terminus' and 'Terminus Babies' sounds so... loaded," he said, beginning to drift off on another tangent but quickly snapping back, "the problem with studying them, their powers, is that terminus energy is a melange of the last ergs of energies from the universes it consumes -- common forms like light and heat and radiation, and who knows how many exotic forms unique to any given universe -- plus the energies generated by things within the Terminus itself. So every exposure of Terminus energy would be unique! Which adds another layer of complexity in studying them..."

That... is an interesting comparison.

"I think you are shortchanging yourself, liebchen," he replied, stroking her cheek tenderly. "I still think that, with my help, your powers could be as diverse as Dark Star's. Perhaps not as potent as his, but just as versatile."

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Fulcrum listened intently and nodded at the appropriate moments. "A possibility, Viktor, but we're still mostly speculating given how little is really known about the Terminus."

"You're right though. Those terms are unavoidably loaded. Unfortunately, what other descriptors could be applied? Even if we developed one, the public could take years to accept the term, if ever. Remember the fiasco with 'sunshine units'? I certainly don't want a repeat of that. Bad press is still bad press in the end," she said, chuckling at the thought.

Still smiling, she continued, "I'll let you in on a little secret, Viktor. I actually have a touch of inferiority complex concerning heroes like Dark Star." Once the initial shock wore off, she nodded and explained, "I love Dark Star's power set. The intangibility, the telekinesis, the space travel. I love it. Not to mention very little if anything can hurt him. For all my power, I'm still very much solid and can't travel as freely as him. I'd love...to visit the stars."

"Sort of like how people who cannot fly under their own power want to know how it feels. Just on another scale."

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Archeville chuckled, "heh, yes, I do recall that ill-fated campaign. They certainly meant well, but, well, perhaps some things should..." he paused, "should... should not be renamed. At least," he quickly recovered, "not without some extensive research!"

Change subjects, change subjects! Ah... wait, her, an inferiority complex? Oh, dear, sweet Mona...

"Yes, well, sometimes those who wish to fly are able to do something about it," he said with a playful smile as he ducked out from her embrace and flew a circle around her, then slipped back into her arms. "And I see no reason why you cannot do the same. You should be able to fly through space as he does, and I can already hypothesize a few ways you could be able to turn incorporeal. And there is one thing you should be able to do easier than he can: breach dimensional barriers!"

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Fulcrum cocked an eyebrow at Viktor's sudden hiccup. Given how fast he thought, even noticing the pause at regular speed meant something. "What's wrong, sweetie?"

She left that question hanging as he swept off unto another topic. Not that she'd actually let it drop. No, sir. But she did go with the flow. She relaxed into his embrace and replied, "I can tell you think my envy is silly. I hear it in your voice. But yes...maybe I could do those sorts of things if I put my mind to them. You know, considering the strange incidents I've had over the years, I wouldn't be surprised if I can breach dimensions. Which makes sense considering that the Terminus is really just refined entropy, or Entropy if you prefer a more metaphysical definition."

She pondered his ideas for several moments, staring off silently into the distance.


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Archeville smiled as he shook his head, and reached up to stroke her right cheek, "nothing is wrong, honey, it is... it is jut that you should have more confidence in yourself. You are an amazing woman," he shifted slightly so he looked right into her eyes, "and a beloved heroine, and would be so even if you had not chosen the particular path you had. This," he reached to grab a handful of her cape, the cape modeled after Centurion's (or perhaps truly was Centurion's, the jury was still out on that), "he helped guide you, inspired you, but it need not define you." He released the fabric, "even if you had never taken this cape, these colors, your heart and determination and compassion would see you be just as honored, just as respected, no matter what you wore."


"Well, maybe not a red-and-black combo," he added with a smirk, then broke to a chuckle. "I do not think wearing the colors of Omega -- or the Nazis -- would win you any fans!"

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