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Still Small Voice

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March 1, 2015 

Dublin Circle 


This little cul-de-sac in the Fens has a little more character (or at least a little more prosperity) than the rest of the neighborhood - there's a mom-and-pop Vietnamese eatery in one corner and a few hair salons in another, and while the row housing is old it's very well-maintained. There's a reason for all that. Almost four years ago a gigantic alien limb smashed into a row of tract housing and old warehouses on this street, smashing them to rubble and leaving behind a rotting mass of hideous misshapen flesh. In the years since, Archetech has cleaned up the mess, rebuilt the area, and paid money to encourage new residents to move into the circle. 


Which meant that when a little boy named Andy Toth reported hearing voices, voices coming from his toys, that little Andy was Archetech's problem. Andy's caregiver, a single mom named Ruth Anne, had called Archetech first - after all, as she'd said on the phone, it was probably Archetech's fault her son was hearing voices! Who knew what had sunk into the water, or what had been picked up and built into the new house where they lived? Ruth Ann had also called her local free clinic for a second opinion - which meant that today (all unknowing), there were two superheroes headed for the small Toth house, Monkey Wrench there to investigate on behalf of her new employer, and Graft on his way to see a very unusual patient! 



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Tyrone Mendoza pulled up to the house and considered all the possibilties for hearing voices. Psychological ones were the obvious option, but there were various toxins that could lead to such a thing. Could also be some sort of hallucinogenic effect. He'd have to examine the patient for outward symptoms. This was an unusual case to be sure, but if nothing else he knew a couple of qualified psychologists that could help with the diagnosis. If the cause were physiological, that could mean any number of issues, some of which being very dangerous and potentially lethal.


He carried a bag of the usual medical supplies, plus a couple of others just in case. The suit was in the trunk of his car, like usual. He hoped he wouldn't need it, but he wasn't a fighter without it. He stepped up to the door and rung the bell.

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Before the door opened, Alex Durham ran up to it. She carried a metal briefcase and wore a wrinkled suit. "Sorry, sorry," she muttered. She put the suitcase down, straightened her ponytail, and breathed a sigh of relief. "I made it. Traffic was awful. Are they expecting us? Am I late? And you're Tyrone, right?"


She smiled awkwardly, a smile that clearly said, "I have no idea if I'm doing the right thing, but I'm doing it, darn it."


She offered her hand for a shake. "Alex Durham. I'm new."

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He shook her hand and offered a friendly smile. "Hello, yes, I'm Tyrone, nice to meet you." he said. "The patient's symptoms are worrisome, so I've taken the liberty of doing some research into possible physiological cause and symptoms. Could be any number of things." he nodded. "As for new, well, everyone starts somewhere, and there's often no better way to do it than to just dive in."

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The door swung open and Ruth Ann Li-Toth opened the door to look up at the man and woman on her doorstep. "Oh, hello, Dr. Mendoza!" she said brightly to the man who was her usual pediatrician. "So glad you could make it!" She cast a more suspicious look at the Archetech engineer. "And you must be Ms. Durham. Come in." The Toth house looked quite nice on the inside. There was a new television in the living room and the kitchen was certainly well-appointed for the neighborhood. The subsidized Archetech-built housing on Dublin Circle had been _much_ coveted, Tyrone remembered, back when people were still moving in.


They saw their charge at the top of the narrow stairs, looking down at them with a child's burning eagerness. Andy Toth turned out to be a little boy with huge blue eyes and a round head with fuzzy brown hair, the latter mostly hidden by a red cowboy hat. "Are you here to save my toys?" he demanded at the sight of the two new adults. "They need your help!" 


"We thought he was just playing at first," said Ruth Ann as she followed Alex and Tyrone upstairs, "but he started having nightmares, and then begging us to help his toys...I know my boy, and I know he's not making up stories like this. He needs help," she said, the wood creaking beneath their feet as they headed up to the second floor. 

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"We'll do everything we can to help, Ms. Li-Toth," said Alex reassuringly. She pulled a small device from her pocket that looked a lot like a tricorder and flipped it open. It began making measured beeping noises. "Uh-huh. Andy, why don't you show us to your toys and we'll see what we can do to help them."


Alex snapped the device shut and followed Andy.

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Andy's room looked a lot like any other working-class seven-year-old boy's in Freedom City. He had a small shelf of early learning books, mostly Pixar novelizations from the look of things, and posters on the wall of football players from the local team, the Heroes. His toy collection was much more impressive, shelves along the walls and shiny red plastic boxes full of a whole variety of toys! There were some staples here and there; a cowboy there, a space ranger here, and a whole collection of superheroic merchandise - fictional characters like Tentaclor and Batman, real-life heroes like the collectible Atom Family action figures, a plush Edge on the bed, and a substantial collection of Miss Americana-themed merchandise. 


Andy ran in next to his toy chest and cocked his head. "They're quiet now! But there was a big battle just yesterday!"

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Alex flipped open her device again and carefully scanned the toy box, looking for signs of animation, robotics, animatronics, or other mechanical life. After scanning it, she carefully went along the toys along the wall, scanning them as well.


As she went, she said, "Tell us about the battle. What were they fighting over? Who won? How long had they been fighting?"


She sat on the edge of his bed and tried to look casual as she read the data coming through on her screen. It was a relatively new device, but it should give her diagnostic information about all robotic and mechanical influences in the area, including basic workings and power sources.

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"It was serious business!" declared Andy, repeating a catch phrase from the Ace Danger Adventure Hour that the kids all loved. "Lord Angstrom's armies have crossed the threshold into the Nano Realm! If champions cannot rise to defeat him, then all will be lost!" He waved his arms around for emphasis, like a kid telling the story of the cartoon he just watched. "The greatest sages of the Nanos are building a mighty machine to summon a host of champions even now, but the forces of Angstrom have laid siege to their capital!" At this point, the excited boy was actually standing on his hands - for all his mother's distress, he was evidently not bothered at all by what he was hearing. "Sometimes they say scary stuff," he admitted, legs flopping back against Dr. Mendoza, "but not too much. I just don't listen when that happens." 

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"Andy," said Alex. "I need to look through your toy box. Let's empty it out and see what we find. Which of your toys was involved in this battle?" She went over to the toy box, opened it, and carefully started removing all the toys. She passed each toy by her scanner as she moved them, checking for more radiation. She knew the bottom of the box could contain anything - extra-dimensional portals, dangerous radiation, remnants of an epic battle, or nothing at all. Still, it was worth checking it all.

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Are you sure that this is a good idea? as normal Mother Unit was fussing over Daphne, also know as Miss Grue.

Aren't all my ideas good idea? No wait don’t answer that.

Whilst Mother Unit had Daphnes best interest at heart she tended to mollycoddle the teenage suiperhero. But there were time when she knew she should take a few risks. There was something strange going on here, she’d picked up the unusual psychic “static†and knew she had to try to help the people affected by it’s effect.


So in her Miss Grue persona she floated up to the front door of the house to ring the doorbell.

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"All of them!" declared Andy cheerfully as he helped Monkey Wrench with her work. "They were all fighting together, I heard them talking about it. I even heard them talking to Lord Angstrom," he went on, sneering the name like one would a Saturday morning cartoon villain. "Saying they were going to kick him in the nuts!" He covered his mouth at that and shot a guilty look at the door. "Oops! Don't tell Mom I said nuts!" The bottom of the box turned out to have nothing Monkey Wrench could see - at least until she held her scanner up to her eye and focused it downward, using the same microscopic lens as before, she could see a welter of tiny dimensional portals across the bottom of the box, looking like pimples on a piece of wood. She'd seen pictures of these before in Archetech files, but never this tiny - the largest of the portals looked to be no more than the width of a human hair across. 


Down below, a young, harried-looking woman of Eurasian ancestry opened the door for Miss Grue. "Yes?" she asked suspiciously, giving the heroine a suspicious look. "Are you here for the voices too?" 

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Daphne gently brushed the mind of the poor worried woman find out the information she needed to help, not that it was difficult as her worried thoughts spilled from her mind.


“Yes sorry I’m late. I’m here to see if I help you son Andy.†Daphne was normally a terrible liar so she stuck mostly to the truth “Shall we go see what they’ve found in the bedroom?â€


She gently guided the poor worried mom back up to the room, not allowing her time to realise that she hadn’t told Daphne about either of those things. She did feel a pang of guilt over that but it was important and she was sure she could help.


She was a bundle of nerves as she approached the room and the other heroes within,  but she tried to project an image that she knew exactly what she was doing.


“Hi there I’m Miss Grue and I’m here to help.â€

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"Miss Grue?" Alex arched an eyebrow. "ArcheTech didn't say they were sending a third. Do you have some form of ID?" She closed the toy box carefully, closed her device and stood up from the floor.


"I'm Alex Durham and this is Dr. Tyrone Mendoza. Both from ArcheTech."

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“Oh wow you get ID cards? I’ve never got one, do I need to fill out a form or anything? I’ve got my Student Card but you know secret identity and all that. But I am a real Grue honest, though obviously a good one.â€


She picked up one of Andy’s toy, her “uncle†Pseudo, and pointed back and forward between her and the toy to illustrate the point.


I could attempt to hack Archetech systems and set up some sort of authority.


Are you kidding have you seen who’s in charge there, they’ll be crazy prepared on there computer security.


“Honesty I felt something was wrong here and came here to try and help. If you want to check I’d be happy to wait.â€

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"What the hell kind of a grue announces they are one and claim to be good?" Alex seemed genuinely baffled. "Are you a reject from your race or something?" She folded her arms. "And yes, ArcheTech gives us ID cards. The government gives us ID cards. Everyone hands out ID cards. It comes with being a United States citizen."


"But..." she paused, searching for words. "You wouldn't be this straightforward if you were like the rest. Unless this is all a trick, in which case you're screwing over an innocent little boy and his family. Sorry, kid," she directed the last comment to Andy.

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"Miss Grue that's who! And I've never met another of my kind, I was born in space about 16 light years from here. And not all Grue are bad, I'm sure most of them are hhonest hard working citizens." There was a slight note in her voice, like she wasn't completely sure about her last statement

"And if I was being sneaky I could have come as someone else, I'm a shapeshifter after all. Andy has the answers in his head and with my help you can find out what he saw, if you don't trust me I can bring you along."

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"We'll say I believe you for now. As for trusting you, you have to earn that. But here's the situation. I'm detecting micro-extra-dimensional portals coming from inside his toy box. You say Andy has the answers in his head? Okay. You talk to Andy. I'm going to see if I can tune my Reader to the frequency of the portals. If I can tune in with them, it's possible I may be able to shut them."


With one more suspicious glance, Alex turned her back and dove back into the toy box. She flipped out her device - the Reader - and scanned the bottom of the toy box again. Fiddling with the dials, she tried to tune into the extra-dimensional frequencies emitting from the box.

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Tyrone let the two young women discuss her Grue heritage and stepped forward with his medical bag. "Hi, Andy, my name is Dr. Mendoza." He shook the young man's hand and looked him over. He looked into his eyes, checked his pulse and checked his temperature. There were no physiological signs. Not that he'd expected any, at this point. "Thanks for being so cooperative." He said to the boy. "You're a strong boy, aren't you?" He looked up at the mother.


"Nothing wrong with him physically. Though I think getting him out of the area is a good idea. Long term exposure to this kind of radiation is a bad idea. It's background radiation, he's come to no harm, but he shouldn't be around it too long, to be on the safe side."

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Suddenly, Monkey Wrench's scans detected a massive surge in dimensional energy, matched by a flash of brilliant white light from the toy chest's basement! The heroes were able to put themselves between the civilians and the flash (despite Andy's eager shout of "Wahoo!" as the light flickered), but that meant the light swept over all of them and then - 


They were elsewhere. 


The sky overhead was a strange shade of shifting gray-green, like getting caught at the bottom of a lichen-covered pond. The air was hot and humid around them, as if they'd suddenly stepped into a tropical jungle. They were in the middle of a large city's central plaza, square, boxy buildings stretching on all sides out as far as they could see. They stood on a raised platform above a crowd dressed in purple and red robes, a crowd of green, lizard-like aliens who took one look at them and fell prostrate before them. 


The nearest, in the most elaborate red and purple ropes, inlaid with bright silvery rope, declared, "Our champions! The world above has delivered you to us! Our salvation is at hand!" 

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Everything went topsy turvy as the world around them went for a trip on the weird side, it still felt like they were in the same place but yet obviously they weren’t. It was obviously another dimension of some kind, maybe another spirit world like that TV land she’d visited a few months ago. Still there she understood how the rules of the world worked, here she was completely winging it.

Turning to these newcomers she gave her best winning smile and a little friendly way.


“Hi there, we um didn’t get the memo could you fill us in on the whole savior deal?â€

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"What the sh**," muttered Alex. She had no experience with any extra-ultra-micro-dimensional anything and she certainly wasn't comfortable being anyone's savior. Still, she tried to look noble and worthy as she waited for an answer to Miss Grue. 

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The high priest looked up at them, slitted eyes widening in shock. Scampering to its clawed feet, it made a few frantic gestures at the heroes before it turned to face the others. In a high, almost falsetto voice, it called with a penetrating tone that reached everyone in the square. "THEY WILL HELP US! SALVATION IS AT HAND!" The crowd went into a wild display of celebration, cheering and bellowing, their necks spreading wide like frilled lizards. Over the noise of the crowd, the priest (now speaking more quietly, albeit with the same high-pitched tone) faced the group, blunted teeth bared in alien emotions that were hard to read. 


"Impossible!" it charged with a tone of disbelief in its alien voice. "You are the great champions of the Overworld! The great machines would not have summoned you if you lacked the will and power to aid us!" It waved frantic arms, claws gesticulating wildly. "You are great ones from the realms beyond, surely you have not forgotten we, your ancestors!" 

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Tyrone was confused. He had no idea where he was, or what he was doing there, or what these people were. However, he did know one thing. He was a superhero, and sometimes weird stuff just happened. He was glad that he had the forethought to sneak the suit into his doctor's bag, but he knew he would have trouble getting away from the other heroes. It would probably prove to be in his best interest just to let them know and hope they didn't say anything to anyone. They were superheroes, and all of them had a vested interest in not blabbing about secret identities.


"We can try to help you." Tyrone said, interjecting firmly, yet politely. "But, we need to know what's wrong, what needs to be done. I'm sure we'd all appreciate it if you could provide us a way back if we do succeed in helping you with whatever you need done. This is not our home."

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Hi I hope you don’t mind but I’m talking to you mind to mind, I promise I’m not reading you mind. I think we’ve stayed in the same place only got really small, it fit’s what the boy was saying.


She hoped neither of them had noticed she wasn’t there when that conversation had happened, though to be fair she wasn’t reading their minds now!


If you want I could probably find out what they’re going on about, the story is almost boiling off of them.

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