Crimsonstar/Homecoming: Part VI
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Everything had been moved to a large underground lair. Even with the portal device and all it’s associated computers, cables and security devices there was still a huge amount of empty space. It was space that Marsius anticipated being used in the very near future. The portal was operational and he along with Agent Reynolds and an entirely new operation staff watched as another probe was retrieved back from Andromeda 3 to Earth.
“How long was it gone?” Reynolds asked as the staff rolled it off the entrance ramp and immediately started downloading its computer files.
“Two days.” Marsius said. “I had it sent to a remote island off the Cardiss continent.” Marsius walked up to Robby, Jessica’s former assistant. Marisus, good to his word, had provided a new position for him, as the head of operations for the new base. “The base is powered by the nuclear reactor, which I would like to thank the US government for making the arrangements to provide. Robby, I assume that everything on the probe checks out?” Robby was quickly reading through the information displaying across his terminal screen as it was uploaded from the probe’s computer.
He gave Marius a thumbs up sign as he spoke. “Yes, and its even better than we hoped, Marsius. I’m not detecting any molecular degradation. We set the automated recall for 48 hours, but I’m thinking our hypothesis may have been correct.” He looked up. “With the new protocols, the extra uplink lines and the nuclear power source, we may be able to get a week, maybe even two on subsequent visits.” Marsius smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “That’s good to hear, Robby. And the manual recall unit you and I discussed?” he asked.
Robby pulled an oval shaped unit from a locked case on the workbench. “Started and completed. You flip the top open, align the dimensional readings and press the button on the inside and the portal will open and recall you home. We call it the Easter Egg.” He smiled.
“Marsius, what about Jessica? Have you had any luck in finding her?” he asked him. Marsius let out a heavy sigh. “No, but I’m still looking. We’ll find her.” He hadn’t told Robby or any of the others about what Jessica was transforming into. He wanted to spare her the indignity of those close to her knowing about her condition.
“I have other duties I must attend to, but trust me, finding Jessica is foremost on my mind. I’ll be back at Dawn Patrol headquarters if you need anything.” Marsius said and he left Robby and his technical staff to finish their work.
Jessica hovered a block away from her old apartment, the demolished patio door now blocked with yellow police tape, the interior dark. Her old home was now a police crime scene. She no longer resembled anything human anymore, her body completely covered in red scales. Her hair was gone, and her teeth had fallen out to be replaced by sharp jagged fangs. She had gained control of her wings which were now fully formed, and beat them steadily to hold her aloft as she looked down in the street of her old neighborhood. She flew out of the Steel Canyon district, heading to the dark and damp abandoned warehouse in the Baumtown area that had become her new home. She curled up on the hard cold floor, her wings covering her body as she fell asleep all the while murmuring to herself, ‘Love me, love me, love me”
Marsius returned to the Dawn Patrol base late that evening. He had been out of the city most of that day and night doing manual configurations of the satellite hookups that were tied to the base computers. They were scanning the solar system, looking for signs of the warp signature of the starslider ship. If he was lucky, he would have advance warning of Janus’ coming, and have time to prepare. He made a final check on the computer systems, verified that the hookups were now routing properly and decided it was time to try and sleep. He made his way to the sparsely furnished barracks and the hard, flat cots that weren’t intended to be slept in for more than a couple of days. He was starting his third week sleeping on one. After he received word of Janus’ impending visit, he decided that he needed to be close to the computer systems when the time came. His cat Oscar was already curled up on the cot asleep and simply yawned and stretched his limbs when he heard Marsius come in.
He lay for a long time starring at the ceiling, listening to the hums and pings of the myriad of equipment in the base. Grace had told him earlier that his sleeping in the barracks was unacceptable when she had a perfectly good couch in her office, and she’d be furious with him if she knew, but using her office felt too much like he was imposing on her good nature. She was already upset with him for eating his meals out of paper bags the last few days and she made it clear that she’d be fixing him a real breakfast in the morning and no degree of protest from him would persuade her otherwise. He smiled when he recalled her standing in front of him her arms crossed in the ‘just try to tell me no’ stance he’d seen her take with him before. He’d been right in making her his Binary, and everyday she proved to him that she understood what it meant, that Binary pairings went beyond caring for your partner than just in combat. He finally let himself relax and drift off to sleep. Oscar stood up, turned around and laid back down so that his back rested against Marsius’ legs.
An hour before sunrise the halls of the Dawn Patrol headquarters screamed with the sounds of alarms ringing from every computer terminal. Marsius’ PDA screeched with the alarm and he jumped out of the cot, flying to the nearest computer terminal. He checked the programs, confirmed that even now every member of Dawn Patrol should be getting the same alert. He quickly put his gauntlets on, activating the matter transmuter to make his battle suit appear as he did.
“It’s started.” He said grimly and flew as fast as he could out of the base.
Grace had snuck in just a half hour before, shook her head when she saw him sleeping on the cot, and went to the kitchen to start breakfast. She ran out into the common living area looking frantically for Marsius, but he was gone.
“Marsius!” she yelled running to the front entrance. As she approached the door she saw all the assembled members of Dawn Patrol come running in the building.
“What’s going on?” Scarlet Scorpion asked. Endless One and Major Britain were both checking their own PDA’s. “I think Marsius’ expected guest has reached Earth.” Endless One said. “Everyone inside, emergency protocols active, now!” she yelled. Grace stood looking at the skyline, she couldn’t see Marsius anywhere.
“Grace, inside.” She said. Grace was still searching the sky, her eyes were narrowed and the temperature of the air around her was climbing as she balled her fists, her powers starting to manifest. “Marsius, no, don’t take him on alone.” she whispered. Shan came around to her laying a hand on her forearm to get her attention. “Grace, Marsius isn’t like Dom, he will call you when he needs you, trust him. Now come inside, we need to make battle preparations, just like he asked us to in case we’re needed.” She said and slowly turned Grace back into the building
Marsius flew high over the buildings in Steel Canyon, checking the readouts on the micro computer in his gauntlets. The early warning system he’d installed told him the starslider ship had entered Earth orbit and should be over Paragon City, but he couldn’t see it anywhere over the various neighborhoods that made up the city. Could the alarm have been faulty? No, he’d checked and rechecked the protocols continuously over the last several days, the ship was here. He looked out over the city, dawn would be breaking soon. He desperately needed to find Janus before the streets became crowded. He flew across Steel Canyon, looking down onto the station for the tram’s green line. A handful of people, early commuters looking to beat the morning rush, were waiting for the train. Time was growing short. A few of the people noticed him, waving to him as he circled the tram platform. He smiled and waved back and felt his back explode in pain as something hit him from the sky above. “Arrggh!” he screamed, losing his concentration and fell to the pavement, shattering the concrete when he hit.
He rolled over, looked up in the sky and saw something slowly materialize in the air several hundred feet above him. As it came into view he knew it immediately, the starslider ship. Janus had somehow enabled it not only with a cloak to hide it from his satellite scans, but with weapons. Some citizens concerned for his safety started to rush toward him. “No!” He yelled, holding a hand up to stop them. “Stay back!” and he launched himself into the air toward the ship. He had to bring it down before Janus could get another shot on him.
Janus watched and cackled loudly as Marsius picked himself up from the ground and lifted into the air, heading straight for the ship.
“That’s it old friend, come up here and we’ll talk.” He laughed.
“Marsius, no..” Tanna cried weakly.
“I’m pretty sure your lover can’t hear you.” Janus smirked, and he flipped a dial on the command console. “Surprise Marsius, you like the improvements I had made to the Star Brigade’s precious starslider?” he yelled
“Surprise Marsius, you like the improvements I had made to the Star Brigade’s precious starslider?” Yelled Janus’ voice over an eternal communication channel at him. The sound carried over several city blocks.
“Janus.” Marsius said his teeth clenched and his hands balled into fists as he flew faster toward the ship.
“I made a slight detour to the Davem system on my way here. You remember the Davems, right Marsius? Outlaw race on the outer ridge of Andromeda? At one time they were the premiere armament supplier for all of Andromeda. They don’t see much business these days, but I assure you they still excel at weapons and shield technology. Oh it wasn’t cheap I had to pay a small fortune just to be granted an audience with them, but I think the quality of their work makes up for the costs, don’t you agree?”
Marsius felt another blast come from the starslider and collide into his chest. The weapon fired so quickly it was almost invisible. He barely saw the flash of it from the ship before it hit him. Again he tumbled out of the sky, smashing into the bridge on Shuster Street; a huge section of it broke away and fell into the lake below. He weakly stood up, pushing slabs of the concrete off of him. The starslider passed overhead, firing a third blast at him. He avoided it but it still ripped up still a larger section of the bridge, sending more of it crashing below.
“I’m impressed Marsius, I don’t think I’ve seen any Star Brigade officer exhibit such strength before. You and your star matter must have a bond stronger then most.” Janus’ voice mocked him from the ship.
“My but he’s a strong one.” Janus said. “I’ll guess I’ll have to try something else.” He said. He put the starslider into a diving formation and flew straight for the tram station. “Let’s see how fast he is.” And he fired the weapon sheering off the top of the tram station. The starslider shook violently as something smashed into the bottom of it and seconds later Marsius could be seen flying away under it to the station platform. Janus smiled and yelled into the open channel. “I’d be careful of attacking my ship directly Marsius, you might not like the results.” He laughed and swung the ship back overhead.
The top of the tram platform was coming down fast. People screamed, some of them running for the entrance ramp, shoving and knocking others down to get away. Some simply lay flat in the station, too terrified to move.
“Everyone get out, now!” Marsius yelled flying in over their heads. He landed in the middle of the platform, throwing his arms up quickly and catching the roof, holding it up. He struggled with its weight. “Out….get…out.” He stuttered. His legs started to buckle, the roof of the tram slipped and he bent over, resting the majority of the weight on his back. Just a few feet in front of him a woman crouched frozen in fear. Her eyes were wide and her mouth hung open her hands held in front of her face, as if she thought she could hold the roof off her by herself. She locked eyes with Marsius. Sweat was building up on his forehead, his face red and his mouth quivering as his jaw clenched tight with the strain. “Miss, ….can’t hold…..please,….go.” He said. She got to her feet, ran out of the station. He looked up and saw the familiar sight of news vans from the television stations. ‘No, dammit.” He said, and his legs and arms gave out and the roof finally fell in the rest of the way. The remaining structure couldn’t hold the additional weight and the entire structure came down burying Marsius deep within the debris.