Heroes of Anodos

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Lachenhut flew out toward the creature first.  Overclock and Keo hovered in the air, at the ready, but hanging back as our red-capped leader had requested. 

I watched it all through that little drone’s cameras.  Silly, I had called it, ever since Overclock overproudly announced he had built something for the team.  And yet, Max Speed was there for his team, when I could not be.  I was laid up at headquarters, my powers drained, while my team faced the biggest challenge they had ever faced together.  Biggest, in every sense of the word.  Trudging toward the city was a giant creature with the head of a fly and the body of…a person almost.  All we could tell was that it was a living thing, not some kind of machine.  And it had just appeared out of thin air in the eastern harbor and started making its way to shore.

I was propped up in a hospital bed helpless and useless at the very time that my team and my city needed my powers—my strength—most of all.  Like everyone else, I held my breath and watched.  Without the strength of my body, I didn’t know what else I could do.

That was no accident.  Lorgnon had made it so.

He had made that creature too.  I was sure of it.  He had made misery…again.  I wanted nothing more than to stop him.  I wanted nothing more than to crush him.  I was wrong to hold back when I had the chance.

Every time I, and now my team, faced a new threat that was created by him, I remembered the moment I could have prevented it all.  The vivid memory jabbed at the inside of my brain as if trying to cut its way out.

~~~

I knew Baron Lorgnon before he became the world-renowned genius who was too valuable to our future to punish for his many crimes.

Back then he was just an arrogant blowhard.  But still a genius.  Like so many others who were young, we wanted to change the world, and to save it.  I thought I could do that by becoming a healer and an artist.

Lorgnon thought he could do it by remaking the world.

I didn’t realize he meant it literally.  I had thought he meant the type of thing that most people seem to mean when they speak in that kind of big talk.  Shift paradigms.  Invent a new technology for creating vaccines that was fast enough to keep up with evolving pathogens.  Discover a new building material that could withstand natural disasters like quakes and floods without crumbling.  Formulate a new compound that would shield us from the radiation flying through the cosmos, so we could be closer to the day we could colonize the worlds beyond our own.  And share everything with the other peoples who lived in the world with us.  The merpeople and the faere folk (and anyone else who might suddenly show up and tell us they’re been in our world all along).

Everyone thought that his patented monocle, through which he saw sights no one else could see, was his first invention.  But it was his second.  Lorgnon’s first invention was me.

He changed the formula for the injectable liquid matrix we had devised to rebuild muscle and bone.  I didn’t know.  He did it right before I had my accident.  A hit-and-run that left me alive, thankfully, but would have also left me mangled and possibly confined to a wheelchair.  I didn’t care.  As long as I found out I would still be able to move my arms, and still be able to father children if I wanted, I was so relieved that I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  The tears fell over the gashes on my face, and it burned.

Lorgnon came to visit, and he told me the matrix was ready.  That we could test it on me.  We had designed it to do no harm if it could do no good.  To break down in the body into normal waste products that would be flushed down the toilet within a day or two.  I was hesitant.  I didn’t want to push my luck.  But after I was discharged from the hospital, I gave him the green light.

He injected me.  Hundreds of injections in a hundred different muscles.  In two days, I was healed of all my wounds.  The formula didn’t just heal muscle and bone, but nerve and skin tissue as well.

Over the following weeks, I ran, swam, did strength-training, to keep the tissues of my body stimulated.  In a month, I became what I thereafter believed I was meant to become.

The world had its heroes, some used magic, and some technology.  I had super-strength, durable (though not impenetrable) skin, quick reflexes.  I had the makings of a super-hero.  I had time to try it out too, since I wasn’t expected back to school and to work yet.  I put on a mask and went patrolling at night.  Crime went down in my neighborhood, and I was ecstatic.  I wanted to share my excitement with Lorgnon, but he was rarely around.  He said he was busy still tweaking the formula.

One of the first things Lorgnon had said to me was that I was ultimately lucky to have had the accident.  After all, healing could only happen where there was damage.  I thought he was right at first.  In time, I would begin to wonder, to question how my accident happened.  But I didn’t begin to suspect my friend until I found out how Lorgnon had managed to create such a miraculous iteration of the simple formula we had started with.

I had heard about the disappearances.  After gaining my abilities, I had even tried to help find the missing, or find the one who had taken them.  The police believed they were all connected for some reason they would not reveal to the public.

I found the missing.  Not because of some skill I possessed that the authorities did not.  But because I went looking for my friend when he was not ready for me to visit.

They were dead, all but one.  The survivor told me what had happened.  I saw the marks on him, on all of them. Hundreds of injection marks.

Lorgnon, my friend, had done this thing.

The man died in front of me.  I had never seen anyone die before.  I didn’t know what to do.

~~~

I confronted Lorgnon.

He did not deny what he had done to save me, to go beyond just saving me, to test the formula that could save millions of others, billions.  He was proud.  And he was excited for me to have found out the lengths to which he would go for a friend.  For me.

I could have reasoned with him then.  Shamed him.  Taken him to the authorities.  But in that moment, and even now, I could not imagine myself doing any of those things.

His laboratory shattered and crumbled under my wrath.  I didn’t even consider that I was destroying evidence.  I destroyed the formula.  I stole his research.  I left him in a basement full of dead bodies, with the walls burning and my friend wailing.  I could have killed him then.  Not in a fire, but with my bare hands.  There was another door in the basement that led to the street.  I knew that he could escape before the fire reached him.  I could have killed him, but I didn’t.  Even in the delirium of my rage, I couldn’t.

~~~

The police discovered the burnt bodies, and I expected them to come for me, and to come for Lorgnon.  But they never did.  Others paid for his crimes.

I moved away, thankful for once that I had no loved ones that could be targeted if Lorgnon wanted vengeance.  I did my penance by using the strength and powers I’d been given, by reminding myself that people had been taken and tortured to give me those powers.  For some strange reason, I believed that he would not be able to truly continue his work without me.  I never thought to search for him, to bring him to justice.  In truth, I was afraid to find him.

Then one day, I sucked it up, locked the awful memories away, and sought him out.  He was in Anodos City.  So I went there, and though I never saw him, face to face, I traced all of his activities.  I shut down his operations.  And he left the city.

That was how I won Anodos over.

I fought against other criminals and oppressors in my new city, alongside the police and the authorities.  The people gave me a name.  Mister Sarcomere.  Some people thought that was cheesy and called me Sarcomereus.

I was helping to make the city safer.  As both Sarcomere and myself.  I finished school.  I did become a healer and an artist, for a while.

Then, one day, I started hearing word of a genius in the east.  He had married a beautiful baroness.  And he was making a splash with a new international company whose focus was innovating beyond common invention.  Their motto was something corporate and hollow like that.  At first, he was a mystery, and he was only referred to by his new wife’s name.  But soon, the world’s press began to refer to him by his own name.

Baron Lorgnon.

My old friend.  My bitter enemy.

He had accomplished some extraordinary things, all in the engineering of inanimate tools and machines, much to my relief.  He was still guilty of crimes that he had never admitted to or paid for.  And I was guilty too, for never bringing him to justice.  I’d only chased him as far as Anodos.

Things were different now.  I too was renowned, at least in my city, and perhaps even in my country.  My word would be respected by the mayor, the police chiefs, the press.  I told my closest confidantes among them what I knew.  I told them that I had failed to put the murderer of six people in jail.  They listened.

And my world split in two.  Those who believed that Baron Lorgnon was up to no good.  And those who believed he was a gift from the heavens.

Among those who suspected him were Keojaiduofas, a chromollage merman, and Lachenhut, the Red Cap, a representative from one of the faere folk realms.

The chromollage were one of the most secretive undersea-dwelling people we had ever encountered.  We never would have known of them—especially with their ability to shift their colors according to their moods.  They chose to make themselves known to us when they deemed that we were encroaching upon their realms.  As for the faere folk, we had encountered throughout our history with varied results on both ends.  Most redcaps were once maligned as murderers.

When I mentioned it upon meeting him, Lachenhut laughed, and said he supposed he might murder someone, if one could truly die laughing.  Neither he, nor Keo, were what I expected.  They did not come to admonish and scold.  That was the burden of others.  Keo and Lachenhut had come to help us fight.  There were heroes among our kind who had gone to their realms to do the same.  Every people had its villains.  And every people had its heroes too.

Keo rose from the sea and Lachenhut materialized from the ether, both of them seeking to join us in stopping Lorgnon and his ilk.

~~~

We formed a team that protected Anodos.  As a coastal city, it was the nexus of the four ancient elements, and therefore a gateway for lots of things both wonderful and horrible.  In one of my wiser moments, I appointed Lachenhut as our leader.  When we were together, everyone looked at me, as the tallest and beefiest, to be in charge.  But I still remembered when I was just an ordinary man.  A man who had no designs on leading anyone into anything.

The redcap’s first order of business, and something we still haven’t gotten to, was choosing superhero names for ourselves.  I already had mine.  So he would constantly harass Keo about choosing.  But we were not just symbolic.  We protected our city, sometimes by fighting, sometimes by talking, sometimes—when the redcap was concerned—by laughing.

He often said that the only magic he knew in our realm was the magic of laughter.  And he joked with Keo that there was little magic left in the surface world and even less in the ether where he once dwelled.

“It all drained down into the seas,” he would say, laughing and poking his elbow into the merman’s gut.

And I would soon learn that my powers were nothing compared to Keo’s.  He was a chromallage.  A chromollage’s skin changed color according to his or her mood and emotion.  But that wasn’t all.  Abilities were triggered by their feelings, and were always related to those feelings in some way.  Uncommon among his people, Keo shifted color and power with every emotion, not just a few.  It required much training to focus his emotions and powers, and when necessary, to calm and dissipate them.

If Keo was embarrassed, he could turn invisible.  Sadness gave him physical strength, the strength to uplift.  If he felt irritated, he could release some kind of hormone or pheromone that made people feel itchy.  If he was angry, he could release bursts of fiery energy from his skin.  We once angered him with his prior consent, so he could practice trying to breathe fire. 

With the strongest emotions, he could directly affect others.  Keo had never felt true hatred, but if he ever did, he would likely be able to drain the life out of another, even without trying.  And he would likely be unable to control it.  His people were careful, therefore, not to allow themselves to succumb to hatred.  Love, however, they cultivated with even greater care.  If Keo felt love, truly felt it, he could heal, himself and others.  And again, he could do so without trying.

Under water, the chromollage could learn to control their abilities safely, for the water buffered and diluted whatever the young chromollage merchild released.  But above the surface, such powers could be destructive.  It was believed that those like Keo, who exhibited abilities for every emotion, were better able to control their abilities because they had to be vigilant all the time.  That was why Keo had been chosen to come to the surface.

When he was calm, which was most of the time, his skin was green, he was at peace, and he could fly.

~~~

A decade passed.  And in that time, Baron Lorgnon became a renowned and respected genius in many different areas of study: science, art, the occult.  It was said that he had a hand in the many wondrous devices and inventions that came out of his company.  He didn’t seem interested in medical research at all, even according to the spies that were sent into his company (and not just by us).  The closest he came was in developing imagers that could allow doctors to perform routine check-ups that were once invasive without all the poking and prodding.

The authorities knew about his company’s illegal activities, but could never collect enough evidence.  Like many who wished to keep their hands clean, he let others do his dirty work.  In public, he only showed his charming side, attending shows and galas with his glamorous wife, giving lively speeches to crowds of admirers, and releasing the inventions of comfort and efficiency that the world both wanted and needed.

Even I might have been fooled into wondering if Lorgnon was doing penance of his own, penance that would never be finished so long as he lived.  But the occasional news story would break, of his company’s underhanded dealings with partners, and factory violations, and the odd story of a disappearance that would always make my heart grow cold.

But it wasn’t until we met the robot that I learned for certain that my once-friend had not turned from his morbid ways.  And that I had to stop biding my time and go stop him.

~~~

Overclock was created and then abandoned by Baron Lorgnon.

Rejected by his maker, the robot went through a crisis.  He struggled to decide whether to end his own existence, end his maker’s existence, or prove to himself that his maker was wrong, and he was worthy of existing.  He hadn’t been programmed to obey.  He had been programmed to advance, at all costs.  The struggle left him with a horrible ultimate conclusion, murder.  He concluded he could only advance if he surpassed his maker, by killing him.  It appeared all the more logical when he learned of his master’s alleged crimes and knew them to be true.

The robot decided then that he could not kill, and that he needed help.  He sought out the one person who he thought could help him, the only person whom he knew had stood up to Lorgnon.  And he found me.

Keo initially advised that we shut down or even destroy the robot.  Lachenhut wanted to give the robot a chance.  And so did I.

Overclock proved himself, first by building that not-so-silly drone.  Then by joining us in the field, facing danger for those of us who were organic, and learning what he was made of inside and out.  That made two of us, half the team, who had started off as Lorgnon’s inventions and had turned against him.

It was almost as if the world was trying to stop him, by making heroes out of his horrors.

***

Now there was this giant creature lumbering through downtown.  Our drone was telling us the creature was female and that she was emitting radiation of a kind that he could not identify or even classify.  Beyond that, he needed more data.  The city’s authorities were focusing on evacuation and first response.  They were leaving the creature for us to handle.  I had just lost my powers a few days prior.  It couldn’t be a coincidence.

The only reason no one had yet destroyed—or at least tried to destroy the creature—was because she had sent up a white flag.

With sound-making organs that none of us could make sense of, the creature had spoken.  She had spoken an entreaty and a warning.

My doctor, who could speak dozens of languages and counting, could not figure out what the creature was saying.  Overclock and Max Speed, who between them had access to all the languages and vocalizations of all the known realms in the world, could not figure out what the creature was saying.

It was Lachenhut who recognized the language.

He didn’t know it well, and he couldn’t remember where he had heard it.  But he knew enough to make out that the creature had not come to harm anyone, even though she had been made by Lorgnon.

The mayor deemed that even if she was not purposely trying to hurt anyone, he might have to give the order to take her down if she didn’t stop moving through the city.  So the team first tried to stop the creature’s advance.  I watched everything from Max’s multiple cameras as if I were flying alongside them (even though I had never had the power of flight).

Keo experienced a strange uncontrolled shift in his coloring when he came closer to the creature.  I’d never seen anything like it.  He blushed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and he quietly but firmly asked Lachenhut to advise the city’s authorities to stand down, even though the creature was causing destruction and chaos in the city.

Keo had difficulty controlling his abilities when he felt conflicting emotions, but he rarely lost his ability to fly.  When they first flew toward the creature, he turned completely white and began to drop from the sky.  Overclock managed to catch him and fly him away from the creature.

The encounter had one bright side.  Keo was afraid now, and when he feared, he turned a bright yellow-orange and had the power to summon a shield.  The shield was strong enough to hold back the debris of collapsing buildings in the creature’s wake, long enough for those inside to evacuate.

Keo swore that the fear he was feeling was only partly his own.  He seemed to be picking up emotions projected by the creature, even as the redcap was understanding some of the creature’s eerie, foghorn-like vocalizations.  Lachenhut hovered before the creature and tried to get her to stop advancing.

I knew, before Lachenhut discovered anything, that the creature was Lorgnon’s handiwork.  The way she just appeared made me wonder if Lorgnon was testing some kind of teleportation device or power.

According to the redcap, my first guess was correct.  The creature said she had escaped from one of Lorgnon’s laboratories.  But she was pretty hard to miss.  She had tried to appear in the middle of the ocean, somewhere that no one would see her.  But Lorgnon had found out, and had already activated a device within her body that would kill her.  He underestimated the timeline however, being as how she was a cutting edge experiment.  And he underestimated her intelligence.  She felt the kill device working within her, and began to make her way to shore, certain that he would send someone to destroy her before she made it.

I was suspicious of the creature, just as I’d been suspicious of Overclock when he first showed up in our midst.  But I was also moved to pity.  If this creature was telling the truth, then whatever she was, she deserved our sympathy and our help.

The creature stopped advancing.

***

“She’s sleeping,” Lachenhut said, several hours later.

The team had helped rescue efforts in the city, all save the redcap.  He had to remain hovering in sight of the creature, or she would get agitated.

He had told her his name and asked for hers, but she hadn’t seemed to understand the question.  Lachenhut started calling her Maggie, with her somewhat confused approval, because she reminded him of a dragonfly he once knew who had that name.

We were all exhausted, but we needed to meet together in person, to share all the information and data we had gathered so far, and to make sense of it.  I sat in a wheelchair around the circular table on which we ate our meals and played games.  It was the middle of the night and no one wanted to go into the cold conference room and sit around the heavy wooden table.

Max Speed was supplying the displays we needed to see.

“He was concerned with creating the epitome of life-forms,” Overclock said, watching the screen that showed news coverage of the slumbering creature.  “It was the reason he abandoned me.”

I started.  The robot rarely spoke of his days with Lorgnon.  “I thought he abandoned you because you were malfunctioning.”

“I was.  I was exhibiting signs of having a conscience.”

“Attaboy,” the redcap said.

Overclock raised and lowered his mechanical eyebrows.  “Having rejected mammals,” he said, “even bipeds, he turned his attention to other species.  Reptile, amphibian, cephalopod, shark.  I’ll wager he rejected all of these, and turned to insects.  In order to advance the natural development of the species to a state of higher intelligence, he likely attempted to make their brains bigger, and in the process, or perhaps as an accident, made them bigger as well.”

“But Maggie isn’t just a giant insect,” Lachenhut said.  “She’s some kind of hybrid.”

Keo rubbed his now-green chin.  “I wonder if he created her in the water first, to allow her to grow so large.”

“That would also explain why she sought to escape to water.”

“But how?” I asked, turning to the redcap.  “How did she escape?”

“She doesn’t quite know.”

While she was being experimented on, she observed as much as she could, in an attempt to find a way to escape.  In doing so, she learned bits and pieces of Baron Lorgnon’s plans.  She knew he could not find enough of the materials he needed in their world, even after doing a survey of the galaxy, for whatever he had planned.

That was why he made the device she had used to escape.  But it wasn’t meant to do what she had used it for.  It wasn’t meant to teleport.

“What is it supposed to do?” I asked.

Lachenhut shook his head.

“We’ll need to table that for a moment,” Overclock said.  “Because Max has discovered something troubling about our new friend.”

Max had confirmed that the creature—that Maggie—was dying, and that it was being caused by some manufactured device within her.  But according to Max’s analysis, she wouldn’t just die herself, her remains would poison the air, the sea, the land, and kill everyone in the city and leagues beyond.

Lorgnon was not one who believed that the ends justified the means.  He believed that the ends should be the aim despite any injustice of the means.  And he believed it so strongly that to save the future, he would sacrifice the present.

“So, we’ll have to save Maggie,” I said.  “But in the meantime, we’ll ask her to go back out to sea as far as—”

“Pardon the interruption, sir,” Max said spinning to face me, though it was hard to tell, since he was radially symmetrical.  “But that won’t help.”

According to Max’s calculations nothing would be far enough.  The toxin that Lorgnon placed inside of the creature’s organs was capable of replicating itself using the raw materials it found wherever it ended up.  And it was so small that even if there was a place that lacked the raw materials for self-replication, the toxin would be carried by air and water to a place where it could replicate.

I wondered if that was the endgame.  Was Lorgnon aiming to terraform our world?  Had he let the creature escape?  Or was she perhaps lying?  Was she fulfilling his ultimate plan for her?

Had she been designed to fool us, playing into the redcap’s sympathy, triggering powers of empathy in the chromollage that even he did not know he had, and sharing the solidarity of defiance against her creator with Overclock and me?

Whatever the truth was, we had to save her.  Saving the city, the world, meant saving Maggie.

“That’s why he took away your strength!” Keo said suddenly, turning to me.

A few days past, I had gotten sick, which hadn’t happened since I’d been in school.  I lost my super-strength.  My doctor, who knew my secret, and was helping me study the formula that had made me super-strong, said that my muscles and bones were “healing” from the abnormal state they had been in.  The powers I’d been given would have shortened my life, but I had deemed it worth the price.  Now it was looking as if I would live a longer, less useful life, in my opinion.

The merman frowned, and his face began to redden.  “Your body had changed, had learned how to heal itself from almost anything.  We could have used your blood to figure out how to save her.  But now…”

My eyes widened.  “There might still be a way.”

My doctor kept samples of my blood.  I had revealed my identity to her when I first arrived in the city, and she periodically collected it to do the research on it.  She wanted to announce that she was working with Mister Sarcomere, so everyone would know that some of the amazing medical breakthroughs that her lab had discovered originated from my blood.  But when I told her about Lorgnon, and that I wanted to protect her, her team, and her family, she grudgingly agreed to silence.  She was the one doing all the work anyway.

Doctor Soyinka was practically part of the team.  The only reason we had not officially asked her was that she had no super-powers to protect herself and her loved ones with if villains came around.

But we had relied upon her knowledge of all things biomedical and her skill at speaking two dozen languages and counting to help us through many a bind.

She might have both the blood samples and the know-how to help Overclock and Max figure out a way to save Maggie’s life, or at least to neutralize the toxin that her body would produce when she died.

***

The next morning, Lachenhut and Keo helped to guide Maggie out of the city and beyond the harbor.  She floated helplessly in the open ocean.  And the redcap and merman stayed with her.

We trusted Max’s conclusion that it would make no difference to the final outcome.  But it helped the citizens see the menacing-looking creature leave, even though it had been announced that she was a victim.  And it helped the team feel as if it were actually doing something.

There were helicopters hovering and planes making passes, not to hurt Maggie, but to defend her.

Doctor Soyinka, Overclock, Max, and I analyzed the last of the blood samples that the doctor had collected prior to my metamorphosis into an ordinary person.

Max estimated we had between two to seven days before the kill device that was embedded and woven into Maggie’s body too cleverly to be removed would activate.

So we gave ourselves the unreasonable timeline of twenty-four hours.  Lachenhut tried to open a portal into the ether, though he was hesitant to poison his own realm.  Keo tried to summon the feeling of love, and its associated powers of healing.

Maggie tried to remember and pass on details of what she saw when she was in Lorgnon’s lab.

***

We made progress.  We made what we thought might be a way to neutralize the effects of the toxin, so that it wouldn’t kill Maggie, and subsequently, everyone else.

But there was no way to test it.

When Maggie’s death spasms began, we had no good choice but to try.  She twitched and though she was far from shore, she triggered a wave that caused the docked ships to crash against the harbor wall.

We injected gallons upon gallons of the neutralizer straight into Maggie’s eye as Max hovered and studied her.

Everyone knew by then that our fate rested on the fate of the insect-like creature that stood patiently in the ocean.  Some thought we were wrong and should let her go.  Some thought we were wrong and should destroy her.  Most just waited with their breaths bated.

***

Maggie spasmed and shivered through the night.  But she also did something else that was unexpected.  She began to shrink.  By morning, she was half the size she had been, and by morning the next day, half again the size she had been.

Max reported that the toxin appeared to be neutralized.

Overclock theorized that Maggie was returning to whatever she had been before.  Lachenhut said that her speech, and presumably her thoughts, were growing muddled.  She soon grew small enough to be kept in containment.

She was brought into our headquarters, and we watched her—mostly Lachenhut and Keo.

And at a certain point, she stopped responding to Lachenhut’s questions.

After a week, we found her lying on the bottom of the containment vessel.  She was already gone.  We studied her blood, her genetic material.  But it was all normal.  She was a normal dragonfly.  What happened to me had happened to Maggie.  She went from ordinary to extraordinary, back to ordinary.  Only she had not survived the reverse transformation.

We had failed to save her after all.  But we had saved everyone else.

*****

“Some people call you Red Maroon, because of the suit,” Lachenhut said, pointing to Keo’s costume.  The all-red body suit was currently adorning a mannequin.

“I don’t understand why I have to choose another name when I already have one.  Is this an order?”

“What about Hue-man?”

Keo sighed.

It had been three days since Maggie’s death.  We had given her a send-off worthy of a fellow living creature, and of one who had tried to escape torment, and when she couldn’t, had decided to be heroic to the last. And we were once again gathered around the round table.  I was able to walk without the wheelchair now.

“Maybe you can take my name,” I said, smiling as I took a seat.  “I won’t be needing it anymore.”  I tried not to feel bitter.  But I did.  My powers had not returned, and likely never would unless I managed to recreate the formula and the circumstances of my first transformation.

Max zipped over.  “Sir,” he said hovering directly before Lachenhut, “I may have managed to track down Lorgnon’s last known location.”

I sat up in my chair.

“And based on the strange radiation that Maggie was still emitting, Overclock and I believe we know what happened.”

“And how it was that she escaped,” Overclock said, clunking toward the table.  “She used a machine to open a portal that allowed her to step across three-dimensional space.  But that is not the machine’s intended purpose.”

“What is it’s purpose?”

Max continued.  “We believe Lorgnon has opened a dimensional rift and traveled through it.”

“Dimensional rift?” Lachenhut said.  “Like the portals I create to reenter the faere realm?”

“Possibly, but this one was made with a machine, not magic.”

“To where?” Keo asked.

Lachenhut sat up.  “This might explain why we’ve been unable to uncover any of his secret laboratories–or at least the ones where he’s doing research on living things.”

“They’re in other dimensions,” I said, marveling.  “But how long has he been doing that?”

“There is little data on this type of radiation, because it is difficult to detect and identify,” Max said.  “Most naturally occurring rifts are magical, and they do not emit this radiation.”

“Can you tell where in our world did he open the rift?” I asked.  “Or is there a ‘where’?”

“There is indeed, sir,” Max said.  The drone projected a holographic image in the center of the table of the spinning globe and stopped on our continent, zoomed into our country, closer, a state I’d never been to, a county, a city, a street, a building.

It was a laboratory, run by a small company.

I frowned.  “Why would he go there?  What kind of work do they do at this company?”

“I’ve put in a request to meet with the company’s owner,” Max said.  “It is a biomedical research company.”  The drone spun around.  If he’d had a body and a head, this would have amounted to a head tilt.

The team exchanged looks.

“Was anyone hurt when this rift opened?” Keo asked.  “Are there any confirmed witnesses?”

“Not that I know of, but there is a technician who’s gone missing.  She hasn’t shown up to work in a few days, and can’t be reached.  An investigation has been opened.”

“Maybe she saw something.  We should look for her too.”

“Assuming she’s still alive.”

“She may just be in hiding.”

Max transferred the files about the company and the dimensional rift to Keo and Lachenhut.  I would do what we all hoped was the less dangerous task of finding that missing technician, a woman named Agnes Prester.  Lorgnon could have killed her, left her alone, or taken her with him.  I prayed it wasn’t the last one.  If he had taken her it could only be for one reason.  He needed a model organism to test whatever his next twisted idea was to change the world.

Maggie had given us some clues.  Lorgnon was searching for something, some resource he couldn’t find enough of in our world.

Regardless of how many of his creations turned against him and righted his wrongs, it was up to me to stop him for good.

I created him.  I created him after he created me.

I may have lost my strength, but I hadn’t lost my wits, and I hadn’t lost my team.  And there was still work to do.

 

Copyright © 2017. Story by Nila L. Patel.  Artwork: “Heroes of Anodos” by Sanjay Patel.

 

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