That's Fanny! I don't recognize the other two . . . but they look pretty young. Probably born after I started going downhill twenty years ago. Well, looks like this escape is going to be a little bigger than I'd thought.
He watched them leave, the vault door shut, and the cell doors slid open.
He was smiling as he clanked out to sit alone at a table and eat.
"So, Ernie, how've you been?" Will grinned at his old friend and enemy sitting at the next table. "Scotch, you're looking pretty good too."
"Will . . ." Ernie was eyeing him suspiciously. "What are you up to?"
"Oh, think about it! I have months, possibly years, to just sit and think about interesting things. The ambiance is shitty, but three meals a day and no worries about how to pay the bills. I mean, you lot, no more than two months max before they realize how badly they overreacted in their panic, maybe another before they're forced to admit it and release you."
Will nodded at the other two men. Young and sitting as far from the Superhumans as possible. "And Doc Travis that I forced to treat me? Why hold him and his sister? And then there's Mike and Kelly. Arresting their own agents? Who were hijacked, and then when needed, jumped in to help divert the asteroid. Serious overstep there. Not to mention stupid. How many Very Normals does the DSMD employ? And every one of them wondering if they are the next in line to disappear without a trial."
"And whose fault is that Will?" Mike glared.
Will shook his head. "Why don't you all contemplate what would have happened if Cari-spelled-with-an-eye had picked some other rich acting guy. And I'd just gone back to the Golden Sunshine Retirement Home? As far as I can tell, they'd have been tragically late trying to divert the asteroid."
Scotch scowled. "They were going to blow it up. A lot of the pieces would have gone high enough to miss, a lot of the pieces would have burned up in the atmosphere. The coasts could have been evacuated."
"Which was a nice plan, but the thing was pretty much solid iron. Oh," Will waved an arm, clanking the chain attached to the wrist shackle, "sure there were a bunch of loose rocks, and pebbles, and everything was coated with that ubiquitous dust. But as you probably noticed, the main body stayed solid through four large missile strikes."
Scotch nodded. "We watched from the Space Plane. "The big chunk that broke off hit in northern Yukon Territory, there's a crater nearly a quarter of a mile wide. Smaller meteorite falls from the Midwest, across central and western Canada, Alaska, Eastern Siberia."
"Iron meteors don't ablate like the chondritic meteors. They were hot when they hit, started fires all over." Ernie shook his head. "Fortunately most of it was debris from the missiles, and those loose rocks on the surface you mentioned. But the Irons were still hot. And . . . then there were the squids. They could maneuver in space."
Will nodded. "It looked like the way I can do it, with gravity dimples, but I couldn't feel any gravity effects."
"Humph. In any case they controlled their reentry well enough to split into four clumps. North America, Europe, India, Eastern China."
Will thought that over. "They were coming in pretty far north. So they picked, what? The biggest population centers or the high tech areas?"
"Tech we think, not that they hit with any accuracy, and the clumping was pretty loose. Especially in North America, where they didn't have much time to maneuver before they hit the atmosphere. We think they were after the industrial areas around the Great Lakes, but as you noticed, the 'clump' extended out into Iowa and Nebraska."
"So they were going more for heavy industry than the tech centers." Will considered that. "I suspect they won't let us have any access to information."
A snort from Mike. He pointed at the screen. "They play movies, a few series. Never news."
"No online access at all." Travis glowered. "My research has all been stolen by the government."
Wow, one person who isn't blaming me.
"Anyway, as I was saying." Will nodded at Travis. "Without that rejuvenation treatment, we'd have had a major asteroid impact, and an invasion of deadly robotic squids, and I'd just be one more old guy in Bakersfield. Of no help to anyone."
"Right. So we just have the invasion of robot squids." Scotch nodded. "We figure three-fourths of them made it down to Earth."
"And I passed on your recommendation to get snipers to carefully cap them, out to the Army." Ernie shrugged. "Much to the fury of some other people."
Will frowned down at his plate. Empty. Well it must not have been terribly bad, or utterly wonderful, else I'd remember eating it.
"I wonder why it made them angry?"
Ernie and Scotch frowned at him.
Ernie scratched his scalp. "They figured you were just telling them how to blow them up. And I wound up having to broadcast that at civilian frequencies in plain English."
"And even though it worked, they still turned on you." Will shook his head. "Well, I'm sorry about that."
"Meh. I'm starting to get pissed at the stupid politicians, myself."
"Atta Boy! I'll corrupt you yet."
Mike looked troubled, though. "They can't keep you here forever!"
Will looked back at Scotch. "The women who fetched dinner. Cari and Kelly are recent. Do you know anything about the other three? You weren't retired like Ernie, how long have they been disappearing Supers and holding them for decades? Centuries?"
Scotch glowered. "The older woman is Fern Rusk. She's Lady Fang's daughter, and the younger ones are Rusk's grandaughters. They were picked up five years ago for counterfeiting and mentally influencing people."
"Tried and sentenced?" Will sat back.
"No. We don't try Supers. Now we're trying to find Lady Fang, herself, and the missing generation between Rusk and her two granddaughters."
"Humph. Well, I doubt Fanny's still alive. She was a third round creation, the Corporation really cut back on the Super genes by then." Will shrugged. "Five years is a lot less than I'd expected. And I ought not be surprised there was no trial. I mean, look at us."
He looked down at his empty plate. "Well, I suppose keeping us on the edge of starvation is one way to keep us under control. That was about half what I'd need for, well, anything serious enough to get out of this bloody vault." He picked up his tray and clanked over to drop it in the bin by the door. "So do we have any control over the Screen?"
"Off-on, volume, three choices." Mike shrugged. "At least we can turn the damn thing off. My version of hell involves having that thing nattering twenty-four seven."
Will shuddered. "How about cards? Books? Nothing but the screen? Ugh."
Travis eyed him. "You're in a whole lot better shape than before."
"Yep. Not really young, but energetic and healthy. And strong, but not," he grabbed the chain hanging between his wrists, pulled it out straight, gripped white-knuckled hard, tightened up all his arm and shoulder muscles . . . relaxed and let go of the chain, "super strong."
"Is it still progressing?"
"No. It stopped . . . How long has it been, anyway? It stopped after two weeks. It'll be interesting, to see how long it lasts. And whether normal aging will resume, of if I'll crash-age back to the state I was in before." Will caught the young man's eyes. "And don't feel bad if it kills me. You gave me a last chance to save the world, and that's a good way to go out."
Ernie slow clapped. "Nice speech." He got up and dumped his own plate. "And I can walk again. Not going to complain. Other than about the controls."
Mike sighed. "Just put your hand over the light sensor beside the movie you want, and hold it there until it registers."
"Even the Screen controls are behind the plex and electronic cage." Scotch shook his head. "Amazing reputation you've got, Will."
Will snorted and looked at the movie as the title came up on the big screen. "I hate that actor. I'll be in my cell, no doubt plotting something evil."