Thursday, March 03, 2005

Fantastic Four #8 - The Infestation Affair Part 1 - "U" is for Unbeatable!



By Chris McFeely

It was times like this that Eddie McDonough had second thoughts about abandoning a certain set of gauntlets and a jet-pack in a little place his friend Johnny casually referred to as "H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks." As he ran down the stairwell of Four Freedoms Plaza - huffing all the way, as he wasn’t a particularly fit kind of kid - he admitted to feeling a little chill run up his spine at the thought of being plunged into adventure again. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling.

Beside him was Reed Richards... or at least, Reed Richards’s head. Reed’s neck was stretched out ahead of him, as Eddie could hear the footfalls of the rest of his body echoing through the stairwell, a floor or two above him.

"We’re almost there, Eddie," Reed said. "Keep your head down."

"Yes, sir," Eddie replied, and jerked to a stop as Reed’s head stopped moving in front of a door similar to a multitude of other doors they had already run past. In a few seconds time, the rest of Reed’s body arrived, and Reed pulled himself back into shape with the sound of wet clay being compressed. He reached for the handle of the door, and grasped it. Then, suddenly, just before he could turn it, translucent blue gas began streaming through the cracks between the door and its frame, rapidly filling the stairwell. "Gas!" Eddie proclaimed the obvious.

"Hold your breath!" Reed instructed, as his mind raced to the solution. Acting quickly, before the gas filled the entire stairway, Reed stretched his body out wide, into a massive sheet, and then curled inward, forming a huge bubble with his flesh, trapping untainted air inside. With a flick of his wrist, he morphed his arm into a funnel, and reached towards Eddie, who was going purple through lack of air, and held his hand over the boy’s mouth, allowing him to breath the air that Reed had captured. Reed quickly transformed his other arm, and held it over his own mouth, waiting for the gas to dissipate.

After what seemed like hours to Eddie, though more like seconds to Reed, it became apparent that this gas wasn’t going anywhere. It was localised, clinging to their very bodies in a thick, noxious cloud that hung around them. Reed switched tactics. "Hold it again, Eddie," he said, and Eddie complied, as Reed twisted himself inside out, knocking Eddie free of the gas cloud and wrapping up all the fumes inside his bubble-body. "The door, Eddie!" he yelled, and Eddie quickly shoved it open, allowing the bloated Reed to stagger in. He saw Sue and Ben, lying on the floor - unconscious? The sound of snickering madee him look up.

On the far side of the room, he saw three figures - three men, one in an orange costume coverred with eccentric patterns, another - a hulk of a man - with a metal sheen to his skin, and the third, a younger man, who didn’t seem to have corporeal form, and appeared to Reed to just be a radiating energy-form.

"Looks like Mr. Fantastic’s really let himself go," the young one joked, pointing at Reed’s corpulent form. It seemed as though the metal one was about to make a comment, when the sound of muffled screams caught everyone’s attention. Reed twitched as he felt something punch his malleable flesh from inside the sphere he had formed from it. Looking down, he saw his skin and costume stretch and contort as something inside clawed, punched and kicked at it, trying to get out. With an intrigued look on his face, Reed snapped back to his normal shape, sending his agitated occupant sailing across the room. The man in the orange costume flexed his fingers and orange light flickered around the airborne figure - a woman, Reed noted, in a blue costume - as she came to a halt in mid-air, and was set down gently.

As this went on, Reed continued to study their assailants. "The U-Foes, I presume?" he said. "I’ve read about you in the Avengers Database." In his mind, he added, Before we lost access to it, to the end of his sentence. His face didn’t register any of the aggravation that his mind was feeling over the unexplained loss of their clearance. "I’ll admit to being flattered," he went on, "that you imitated my team and I in obtaining your powers."

Vector crossed his arms. "As well you should be, Richards," he said. "This confrontation’s been a long time in the making."

"Hardly the makings of a fair fight," Reed said, gesturing to the forms of Sue and Ben.

"Oh, don’t worry about them," Vector said. "You’ve got other concerns. Ironclad!"

The silver-skinned man lumbered forward, reaching out to grab Reed in his massive fists. Deftly, Reed’s stomach stretched away to the side as his head and legs remained in front of Ironclad, silently taunting the powerhouse. "Think yer tricky, do ya?" Ironclad accused, making another grab for Reed and missing.

"I don’t care to sing my own praises," Reed said, side-stepping as Ironclad thrust his fist downward, allowing the man’s huge hand to harmlessly pass by and slam into the floor.

Ironclad emitted a guttural scream of rage, and swung his arms out wide. Before Reed could react, he swung them inward, slamming his palms together over Reed’s head. Reed was dazed a little, but nothing more serious than his head being compressed into a vertical Fantasti-pancake occurred. With a grunt, he popped his head back into shape, and shook the dizziness off, preparing himself for another of Ironclad’s blows.

He wasn’t prepared, however, for a red-hot energy beam from X-Ray, which was what struck him next, knocking him off his feet. The flameproof unstable molecules of his costume did their job well, though, protecting him from burns. He tried to get to his feet, but found he didn’t have the energy for it. He realised he was coughing - as though the room was filled with smoke. Groggily, he looked around quickly to see if X-Ray’s blast could have ignited any flammable objects in the room - but nothing was ablaze.

"Aw, what’s-a matter?" a voice said. "Having trouble breathing?" Reed realised it was Vapour. She had obviously changed herself into some kind of clear, noxious gas - Reed couldn’t identify it off-hand, but he reasoned that if he wasn’t breathing it in at the time, then such an analysis wouldn’t have proved quite as difficult. "Don’t worry," Vapour said. "In a few minutes, breathing wont be an issue..."

"On the contrary..." Reed wheezed, and slowly got to his feet, staggering drunkenly. He tossed his head back, and breathed deeply, sucking in as much air as he could.

"Wh... what are you do-!" Vapour was cut off as all of her substance was sucked down Reed’s gullet. But Reed didn’t stop there. He kept inhaling, ballooning up his body into a massive sack of air. He blinked, feeling light-headed, then abruptly exhaled at a rapid pace, blasting Vapour out across the room - again. She solidified, and crashed into Ironclad, who had stepped back to watch the fun.

"You are a resourceful one, Richards," Vector said. "With all that stretching going on, you’re almost unbeatable. I wonder..." Reed stepped forward, as, with an outstretched arm, Vector gestured, and orange energy began to flicker around Reed. "... just how far can you stretch?"

(Totally useless fact! Reed can actually stretch himself out to 1,500 feet before he begins to feel any pain. Think that’s going to deter Vector? Let’s see... - Chris)

Vector clenched his fist, and Reeds arms, legs and head shot off in five different directions as Vector telekinetically redirected the kinetic energy of Reed’s body, dragged every which way by nothing more simple than a thought on Vector’s part. Eddie yelped and dove to the floor, as Reed’s legs shot back out through the door into the stairwell, and began looping themselves up, down, in and around the numerous flights of stairs, as his arms were hauled in the opposite direction, pulled through the hole the U-Foes had made upon entrance and out into the open air and out across the Manhattan skyline. As Reed began to groan in pain, Vector smirked and twiddled his fingers, smartly tying Reed’s extended neck into a bow. Reed gritted his teeth and tried valiantly to contract his limbs, only to find it caused more pain.


Before Vector could look around to see who had yelled, he was sent sprawling as heat slammed into his back, raging across his body and knocking him from his feet. As he hit the floor, he twisted in mid-air, to see the sleek form of the Human Torch rocketing towards Four Freedoms Plaza.


It had been a long night for Johnny Storm. The revelations that had been imparted to him, and the other members of the FF, by Spider-Man the previous night, following their battle with the robot creature that had called itself Brawn (In Spider-Man #7 and FF#6 respectively - notice I’m not telling you what Spidey told him... - Chris), had been considerably jarring, but they hadn’t deterred him from his search for Caledonia. He had scoured almost every inch of Manhattan Island, but had found nothing. It was more than a little disconcerting, and, more to the point, heartbreaking.

He and Alysande Stuart hadn’t known each other all that long. When he had first met her, he had saved her from some form of punishment at the hands of two members of the Captain Britain Corps in the Core Continuum, and had managed to smuggle her back to Pier Four and hide her in the tesseract warehouse. She’d been unconscious at the time, so their first exchange when she came round was rather... rough. They had fought briefly, but once Johnny explained the situation to her, she decided that, in accordance with the unwritten laws of her people, she owed him what she termed a "life-debt". During a subsequent encounter with Spider-Man and Kraven the Hunter, Alysande revealed that she had the ability to transform herself into an armoured warrior woman named Caledonia - a trait which earned her the respect of tthe FF team, whom she became an immediate ally to. That didn’t mean that she gave up on the life-debt notion, though. To begin with, she treated Johnny in the same manner as her ‘former master’ - she had, it seemed, been a slave for the recent part of her life. Johnny had been able to upgrade their relationship from master and servant to firm friends, as he felt it should have been at the time. But now... he wanted it to be more than that.

Lost in morbid thought, Johnny nearly had his face slapped off by a hand which was attached to a hundred-foot-long arm made of rubber flesh as it shot by him. No contest as to who it belonged to, anyhow. And Johnny knew it meant trouble.


Several hours had passed since Johnny Gallo had left his friend, Eddie McDonough, at Four Freedoms Plaza. Eddie had been lucky enough to be appointed the position of assistant to Reed Richards by Empire State University, where Reed was a consulting professor, and Johnny had just come along with him because, as usual, he didn’t have anything better to do. So, as Johnny rounded the corner on his way back to the plaza, he hadn’t really expected to see a set of gigantic elastic arms waving out from one of the upper floors, nor a giant flame ball explode just inside the large hole that the arms were sticking out of.

Johnny looked up, and lifted an eyebrow in an attempt to look like he was deliberating, but he instead wound up making himself looking incredibly stupid. "Uh-oh," he said.

Johnny looked back and forth on the street. Not too many pedestrians. He snapped his head around, to look across the road. Ah, just as he’d hoped, there was an empty phone booth, just sitting inside the alleyway on the opposite sidewalk. "This looks like a job for..." he started, as he smartly bounded across the road and into the booth, "...RICOCHET!"

He shut the door behind him, took one last look around, yanked his jacket off... then pulled a quarter out of the inside pocket, and dialled up his girlfriend, Kathy, to see if she could swing by his house and pick up his costume for him.


As Vector smashed into the floor, his control over Reed’s limbs was lost, and he was able to contract himself back to his normal shape, though he had a little difficulty undoing the knot in his neck. The U-Foes’ attention was directed at the Human Torch, though, so he didn’t need to worry about getting caught off guard.

X-Ray shot into the air, to meet the Torch before he got to the building. "Been wondering where you’d got off to, Torchie!" he called to the flaming youth. "You and me, we got a lot in common!" X-Ray thrust his hands forward, and a magenta bolt of energy leapt from his palms, streaking towards the Torch.

Johnny didn’t know who these jokers were, but that didn’t stop him from easily banking to avoid the bolt, and then catching X-Ray in the midriff with a flame blast of his own. X-Ray went sailing back inside the Plaza, to crash down alongside Vector, who was trying to shake off his disorientation and pull himself up. Johnny flitted in through the hole in the wall, and set down by Reed.

"Names?" Johnny asked.

"The U-Foes," Reed replied.

Johnny stifled a laugh. "Oh, you’re kidding, right? The Yoooooo-Foes? How lame is that?"

"This isn’t a joking matter, Johnny," Reed warned.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Johnny said, then noticed that Ironclad was moving towards them, out of the corner of his eye. Without a word, he snapped around, and shot a flame bolt at the metal hulk, only to have it splash harmlessly off his silver skin. Then, he felt himself tugged upward, as Vector grabbed a hold of his limbs with his power, altering their kinetic energy and smashing him up, through the ceiling and up to the next floor, where he became wedged.

X-Ray, Vector and Ironclad then turned their full attention to Reed. Vapour held back this time, considering the trouncing Reed had already given her. Her powers weren’t much use against him.

"Seconds out!" X-Ray proclaimed.

"Round two!" Ironclad continued, swinging his fist at Reed. Reed shifted to move his head, but he felt the familiar tingle of Vector’s power around his skull, and found his head jerked forward, to slam full on into Ironclad’s knuckles. He staggered back, and was caught in the gut by an energy beam from X-Ray. He toppled backwards, and landed with a thud near Sue and Ben’s unconscious bodies. As he strained to get up again, he failed to notice Sue’s eyes flicker open.


Kathy couldn’t help but giggle as Johnny tried to put on his Ricochet costume within the confines of the phone booth. At present, he’d got one arm and one leg in, and was now hopping around, trying to force his other leg into the pale spandex get-up, shaking the whole booth violently in the process.

"Yeah, you laugh," Johnny said, sarcastically. "I’d like to see you try and get spandex on inside a cramped, sweaty little space like this..." Then he paused, and added, "eh... actually, I would like to see that!"

Kathy offered him a slanted smile in response. "Any chance you’re gonna get done before someone walks by and sees ya?" she asked.

"Geez, get off by back, wouldja?" Johnny said, though Kathy knew he never meant to sound quite as harsh as he did. "Ha! There!" He finally managed to get the suit on, and quickly zipped it up. Next, he tugged on his leather jacket with comparative ease, pulled his mask out of the jacket’s pocket, and slipped it on.

"There ya go," Kathy said. "Now, go on, get up there!"

"Gahd, alright, alright, I’m going..." Johnny grumbled. "Who wanted to go help the Fantastic Four again?"

"GO," Kathy said.

Ricochet smirked, and his mask contorted with his features. Kathy smiled back, as he jumped a good thirty feet into the air, landing neatly on a ledge of one of the nearby buildings. He continued to bounce upward in this fashion, and once he was out of Kathy’s earshot, he began to sing a song he’d been working on.

"Ricochet, Ricochet,

Does whatever his girlfriend says,

Throws a disc,

Watch it fly!

Hits the bad guys,

In the eye!

Look out!


There goes ol’ Ricochet!"

"Hope that’s not infringing on anyone’s copyright..." he mumbled, as he finished his performance, and continued on his way up.


A miniature burst of flame was enough to shoot the Torch free of the ceiling, though as he dropped down, he was smashed in the chest by Ironclad, and sent flying across the room, to crash land alongside Eddie, who had been hiding behind the kitchenette counter.

"Muh... uh.. guh..." Eddie garbled.

"Yeah, you got that right," Johnny said, rubbing his head, and wincing at the pain in his chest as he tried to stand up. Reed was still fighting off X-Ray and Vector single-handedly, as Ironclad thundered over towards the Torch, with Vapour in tow, who was obviously back in the fighting spirit.

"HeadZAAAAAP!" came a yell, as a short figure wearing a blue and white spandex outfit, and a leather jacket bounded in through the hole in the wall. Eddie recognised him instantly.

"Johnny?" he said out loud.

"Yeah?" the Torch asked, turning to look at him.

"Uh... oh, uh, nothing," Eddie replied, hastily.

"That guy looks familiar," the Torch said, studying the new arrival, whom Ironclad and Vapour had stopped to look at. Vector and X-Ray took a further second to look around, but when they spotted him, they ceased their assault on Reed, who flopped down to the floor. "Hey, wasn’t he one of the ones who tried to steal Spidey’s thunder a-ways back?" (That’d be back in Spider-Man: Identity Crisis, though Johnny doesn’t realise that the original Ricochet WAS Spider-Man)

"Name’s Ricochet," the new arrival introduced himself. "So... we fight now, right?"

Ricochet didn’t get a verbal answer, as Ironclad stormed over to him and drove his clenched fist straight at the boy. The base of Ricochet’s skull began to burn furiously, as his mutant danger-sense warned him of the attack - although, it wasn’t as though Ironclad was hard to miss. Ricochet quickly jumped into the air and somersaulted over the silvery colossus, planting his feet on Ironclad’s shoulder blades and shoving himself off again, sending Ironclad, who had already over-balanced himself by swinging his punch after Rico and jumped clear, face-first into the floor.

"Hey!" X-Ray yelled. "Nobody does that to one of us!" Bolts of energy crackled around Ricochet, as his danger-sense guided him safely through the innumerable power bolts that X-Ray fired at him.

"Little help!" Ricochet squeaked, as a bolt singed his ear. In response, the Human Torch knocked X-Ray from the sky with a flame bolt. "Much obliged!" Ricochet replied, making an ‘o’ symbol with his thumb and forefinger.

"Now, let’s try... you!" Ricochet said, pointing at Vector and vaulting into the air. With a sweeping gesture of each arm and a flick of his wrists, Ricochet snatched four discs off their mounting places on his jacket sleeves, and sent them soaring towards Vector.

"Oh, please," Vector said, as his hands began to crackle with orange energy.

Seconds before the discs reached Vector, Ricochet called out: "I wouldn’t do that if I was you!" Vector didn’t listen. As the villain twiddled his fingers in the direction of the discs, Ricochet screamed, "Hit the dirt! Hit the FREAKIN’ dirt!" and dove to the ground with his hands over his head. Eddie did the same, and grabbed the Torch, making him follow suit.

The discs shimmered orange, and shot away from Vector as he re-routed their kinetic energy. Hurtling at incredible speeds, they slammed into the walls of the room... but they didn’t stop there. They rebounded with greater velocity, shooting back across the room at Vector, who squawked and redirected them with his powers again. All four discs shot off in different directions, smashing into the ceiling and walls, picking up even more speed, until they were nothing more than blurs, shooting around the room like flat, yellow pinballs. Vector stood in the middle, hands over his head, his fingers glowing with energy as he constantly rebounded the discs. Ironclad, meanwhile, who had been lying on the ground, dazed, since Ricochet had knocked him down, slowly pulled himself up, rubbing his face, unaware of the activity around him. When he lifted his head to say, "Yer gonna pay for that," he instead found his face battered four ways at once by objects that he could barely see. The pounding was relentless, with several strikes a second, and he soon succumbed. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he slumped over, unconscious.

Ricochet leapt to his feet, and launched himself into the air, his danger-sense again guiding him. With awe-inspiring ease, he snatched three of the discs out of the air and affixed them back on to his jacket. "Now," he said, "where’d that other one - AUGH!" With that scream, he ducked again, as the fourth and final disc shot over his head, streaking towards Vapour. She shrieked, and turned to her gas form, allowing the disc to pass harmlessly through her. However, as she turned solid again, she had failed to note she was standing three feet away from a wall, which the disc rebounded off of, and smashed her in the back of the head, knocking her out cold. The disc clattered to the floor alongside her, and Rico picked it up. "Well," he said, "that was fun."

"Sis!" X-Ray cried, as Vapour collapsed. He darted to her side.

"Johnny," a weak voice appeared at the Human Torch’s elbow. He looked down, to see Reed lying there, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. "I...," Reed stopped to cough, then went on, "I don’t know... if X-Ray is solid... but I don’t want to take chances. Your powers are the only one suitable for dealing with such a scenario..."

"Say no more, bro-in-law," Johnny said, flaming on and taking to the air. He found it unsporting to shoot X-Ray in the back, as the young man lay at his sister’s side, but he didn’t see another way. He stretched his arms out in front of him, and formed a cone of flame between them. Seconds later, a concentrated flame blast shot out of the cone and caught X-Ray in the back, knocking him for a loop. Ricochet dived aside as X-Ray hit the floor where he was standing. The youth coughed and soared into the air, with a malicious look on his face, generating bolt after ferocious bolt of energy and hurling it at the Torch. It was no big deal for Johnny to dodge the clumsily aimed blasts, and get in a few more of his own. Two hits to the gut and one to the head later, and X-Ray was lying on the floor, unconscious

Ricochet and the Torch turned their attention to Vector, who took a few steps back. "Y... you’ll never get me!" he cried, and turned to run.

He didn’t get far.

Vector never saw quite what it was that smashed him square in the face - but that’s because it was invisible. He spat blood, and staggered backwards, as Sue Richards stood in front of him, her fists clenched. She was a good ten feet away from him, but still, she swung her arm in a punching motion - and Vector was more than surprised when he felt a powerful blow strike him in the chest. Sue performed a high, spinning kick, and a strike to his temple nearly knocked Vector from his feet.

"Wh... wh..." Vector stammered, as he coughed up more blood.

"Simple, really," Sue replied. "I’m using my forcefield to extend the reach of my blows. It’s rather effective, don’t you think?"

Unable to see the forcefield projections that were striking him, Vector had no way to direct his powers at them, and direct them away from him. Two punches later, and he went the way of his team-mates.


"Gaaaah..." Benjamin J. Grimm groaned, as he rubbed his baby blue eyes and shook his head. He looked around the room, and was greeted with the sight of the unconscious bodies of the four bums who’d blindsided him and Sue, along with Reed, looking the worse for wear, Johnny, Sue, that kid who was Reed’s new lab assistant, and some other spandex-wearing so-and-so who he didn’t recognise.

"Welcome back to the land of the living," Johnny said.

"Oh, you gotta be kiddin’ me," Ben exclaimed. "I missed th’ whole fight?"

"Afraid so, old friend," Reed informed him.

"Weeeeeell, this was loadsa fun, I’m sure," Ricochet piped up, "but I trust you folks’ll be able t’deal with these guys without me, now."

"Thanks for the help," Sue offered her gratitude.

Ricochet put on a deep voice as he replied, attempting to sound heroic, but instead sounding more like Charlton Heston. "All in a day’s work, ma’am." He bounced over to the hole in the wall. "Y’all take care, now!" With a leap, and, Eddie thought, a little singing, he was gone.

Ben stood up, and walked over to Ironclad’s body, poking it with his foot. "Can’t believe I missed the whole dang thing..."

Then, suddenly, the middle of the room began to shimmer slightly, catching everyone’s attention. "Woah!" Ben exclaimed, as the uninvited glow began to increase in brightness. "Looks like I might get a few licks in after all!"

As they watched, the pulsating glow slowly began to take shape. Within seconds, it had taken the form of a man - a man that Sue recognised immediately.

"Cable!" she cried.

The telekinetic mutant’s psychic image nodded towards her in greeting, then moved to glance about the ruined room, noting the bodies. "I can see you’re... busy right now, so I’ll make this quick." The psychic projection said, as it turned to Reed. "I need you."

Reed blinked, still a little woozy from the beating he had taken. "Need me? For what?"

Cable obviously wasn’t in the mood to beat around the bush. "I’m in the process of gathering twelve individuals, to aid me in my battle with Apocalypse, when the time comes," Cable explained. Reed slowly nodded. His knowledge of the mutant criminal, Apocalypse, was limited, but he knew enough to understand that he posed a threat worth taking seriously.

"And...?" Reed prompted.

"I want you to be one of the Twelve."

Reed started, and winced as the bodily jerk caused him pain. He groaned. "Well... nngh... that’s a laudable goal," Reed supplied, his surprise getting the better of him. "But my duties to the Fantastic Four, and to my family, come first."

"I expected as much," Cable said.

"If I can help, I will," Reed continued. "But I do have other concerns."

"Well, that’s something, at least," Cable said. "Thank you."

"You’re welcome," Reed said. He would haven shaken Cable’s hand, had it been possible.

Cable nodded in acknowledgement. "I have more soldiers to recruit... I’ll let you get back to... cleaning up." He jerked his head at the U-Foes’ bodies, and his psychic image simply winked out.

"Huh," Ben grunted. "That was unexpected."

A groan from across the room caught Reed’s attention, and he saw Vector shift where he lay. Evidently, the bright light from Cable’s psychic image had awoken him. Immediately, Reed stretched his arm out across the room, and slapped Vector across the face, to keep him disoriented, and prevent him from using his powers. He grabbed him about the neck, and dragged him over.

"Who sent you?" Reed demanded.


The Overseer grimaced. "They have failed," she said. "We cannot let our secrets be divulged."

Shawn Berger nodded, and reached into his pocket, pulling out the small grey box. His fat thumb stabbed down on the button.


"Who sent you?!" Reed yelled again, shaking Vector.

"It... it was..." Vector mumbled, "it was... AAAARRRRRRGHHH!!" The villain’s abject scream startled Reed so that he dropped the man to the ground. A repulsive crackling sound, like sizzling bacon, filled the air, as Vector screamed insanely, clawing at the back of his skull. Similar shrieks erupted across the room, as searing pain jostled the other U-Foes into consciousness. Each of them clutched their head, wailing in agony, until abruptly, they all stopped. Thick wisps of smoke curled out of their mouths, noses and ears as they all slumped to the ground. As something grey oozed from Vector’s ears, trickling down his face and smearing the ground, the villain gagged and choked out a few words. "M... m..." he slurred.

Reed kneeled by him. "What?"

"M... more... more than mee...." Vector whispered, but before he could finish the sentence, he slumped to the ground, prone, as blood ran out of his mouth.

Reed staggered back, aghast. The feeling was mutual among the other FF members, as well as Eddie, who ran out of the room, into the stairwell, where vomiting sounds were heard.

Reed massaged his temples. "More questions..." he murmured. "And no answers..."



Alyssa Moy mouthed obscenities as she thrust open the door to her laboratory and stormed in. Her brief respite from studying the bizarre objects had served to aggravate her even more, as the vending machines in the complex were switched off, for some reason. It was getting dark outside, too, and Alyssa wondered why the lights hadn’t been turned on. She fumbled for the light switch in her lab, and flicked it on. Nothing happened. Alyssa jiggled the switch a few times. Still nothing. She glanced at her computer, which she had left on. It was off too.

"Oh, great," she sighed. "A power outage." Then she stopped. If the power was out... what was that humming noise? She looked around. It was coming from the vicinity of the enigmatic ovals, and as she stepped closer to them, she could feel the ground throbbing beneath her feet. She screamed when a voice spoke.

"Power levels restored," said an electronic voice. "Initiate resuscitation sequence."

Alyssa’s mind raced. That was a diagnostic report... these pod-things had in-built computers. Resuscitation? What did these things have inside them? She grabbed a hold of the power cable that led into the pods, and tugged it free. That didn’t serve to do anything - the pods continued to pulse, and now they were bleeping as well. What was happening? She smashed the side of one pod with the heavy cable, and it sparked.

"Error!" the computer voice declaimed. "Information storage lost. Scanning back-up principles." A few seconds later, it spoke again. "Organic interface non-functional. Mech-replicant system on-line." Alyssa stepped back. What had she done? "Resuscitation complete."

The top halves of all three pods swung back, with a hiss. For a second, nothing happened... and then, a hand crept over the rim of one pod. The hand, purple in colour, was followed by a black arm, and then another arm just like it grabbed the other side of the pod, and a massive black and yellow body was hoisted free of the indentation inside the pod. A red visor looked down at Alyssa from a black-helmeted white face, as a weird chittering sound escaped the lips of the creature that had emerged. Two gigantic protrusions on its back crackled with electricity.

Behind this first pod, two other creatures climbed out of their pods, both similar to the first one, though not identical. One had what appeared to be wings on it’s back, while the other had a grill-like faceplate covering its mouth, and a threatening-looking device jutting

"What happened?" the winged one asked.

"Where are we?" the one with the face-plate wanted to know.

"I don’t know I don’t know," the first one said. It paused, as light passed across its visor. "Internal energy levels low levels low," it said. "We must feed must feed!"

The winged one seemed to sniff the wall behind it. "Mmm," it said. "Heavy on the electrons!" A grinding noise filled the air, as the robotic thing hopped backwards, and seemed to collapse in on itself. When it landed on the ground, it was in a different form - that of a mechanical cricket, which immediately began to gnaw at the wall, crunching through the omnium steel like it was nothing more than potato chips. The other two creatures did the same, becoming different kinds of beetle and chewing up the metal of the wall, exposing the outside. The first one hopped forward.

"We have to find Megatron Megatron," it said, "but first, we need to restore our energy energy! Let us begin begin!" The three beasts flitted into the air, somehow, and swooped towards the city of Stockholm, on the outskirts of which Alyssa’s lab was located. It wasn’t long before the screams were heard, echoing in the night air.


No comments: