Authors: Grayson Queen
Tags: #Science Fiction/Superheroes
“The LRA attacked,” Anne Marie said. “I stopped them.” She flashed her claws.
The Mother Superior began to mumble a prayer while moving to grab something. “Quickly,” she said. “We must clean you off.” And she ran to fill a bucket with water.
Sitting in the hard wooden chair at the Holy Mother orphanage, Anne Marie stared at the floor. Old stains told stories of days long gone. She'd been called to the Mother Superiors office and then told to wait. No one had explained why. She tried not to complain. The sisters had said nothing about her nighttime activities. The least she could do was make things easier for them.
The sound of footsteps approaching made her look up. Two big men were coming down the hall. They both looked serious and strong. The black man wasn't from Africa; Anne Marie could tell by his clothes. As they passed, the other man, with white hair, looked at her, and they locked eyes. Then the two men went into the office and closed the door behind them.
“Porter and Deacon-Slater,” the white man said. “We’re here in regards to the girl, Anne Marie Godfrey.”
“Oh, yes, Anne G. You know we have a number of Annes here. There’s an Anne F, an Anne R…,” the Mother Superior was rambling. “Anne G’s parents were murdered. Terrible, terrible thing. The poor girl saw it. I can't imagine...”
“She claims to have abilities?” The white man interrupted her.
“Yes, I've seen them.”
“It would be easier if you saw for yourself.” A second later the office door opened, and all three of the adults came out. “This is Anne G. Anne, would you please show the gentlemen your gifts.”
Anne Marie obliged. It was a simple matter of flexing the right muscle and then the claws would snap to, like a switch. Neither of the men seemed startled or surprised.
Deacon-Slater spoke in his deep bass voice, “Told you it would be worth your time.”
Porter ignored him and said to the Mother Superior, “The One will take custody of the girl now.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied a little too eager. “The paperwork has already been filled out. I just hope you can provide the care that she needs.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Porter said.
The Mother Superior went back into her office to find the forms. When she was out of earshot, Porter said to Deacon-Slater, “She's a little too old.”
“Yeah, but she hasn't been raised at The One,” Deacon-Slater replied. “And there's the other thing.”
Porter glanced back at Anne Marie.
The Mother Superior returned and had Porter sign off on the papers. Then Porter turned to Anne Marie and said, “Let’s go.” The two men led the way out of the building, and the girl followed. “How accurate is the intel?” Porter asked.
“It's my intel,” Deacon-Slater answered. “The Board has had me out here for a couple of days now. Granted, I didn't see anything with my own eyes.”
The car they came in was parked in front of the orphanage. Porter opened the back door for Anne Marie. Then he got in and started driving. For a while, he scrutinized her in the rear view mirror.
“Anne G is it?” He asked.
“They call me Angie,” her accent was more apparent amongst the Americans. “It’s easier.”
“George here has been telling me about you,” Porter said. “He thinks you've been running around fending off soldiers single handed.”
“I used my gifts the best I could,” she answered straight-faced.
“Then you've killed men?”
“A lot of them?”
“Yes,” she answered again, “only the ones who hurt people.”
“Are you angry about your parents?”
Anne Marie shifted in her seat and stared out the window.
“Angie, are you angry at the people who killed your parents?” Porter asked forcefully.
Looking at Porter through the rearview mirror, she answered, “I'm angry at everyone who would do such a thing.”
Porter looked at Deacon-Slater, who was a little too smug for his taste. “Where we're going we'll train you how to protect innocent people and stop the ones who hurt them.”
“Good,” Anne Marie said.
“How are you planning on transferring her to the States?” Deacon-Slater asked.
“That was easy,” Porter replied. “I adopted her.”
Deacon-Slater laughed, “If you think having a teenage daughter is easy, then you have another thing coming.”
Henry Schreier was disturbed by the amount of clutter scattered around the office. Doctor Stein didn't seem to be bothered. To Henry, it was a bad sign.
“Please, take a seat,” Doctor Stein said as he picked a magazine up off the only other available place to sit. Stein sat in his worn leather chair and moved a stack of paper so he could see Henry. “I'm so glad you could come, Doctor Schreier.”
“Henry, is fine,” he replied in a German accent.
“Then please call me Victor,” Doctor Stein said then paused for a moment.
Henry shifted awkwardly.
“Uh, most people make a joke about now,” Doctor Stein explained.
“Oh,” Henry said not understanding.
“My middle name is Franklin,” Doctor Stein replied embarrassed. “Victor Franklin Stein… Victor Frankenstein… Like in the book… Anyway, the reason I invited you here was because of that paper you wrote.” He dug through the mess on his desk and pulled out a sheet. “Your ideas on mapping synaptic impulses and motor functions are... Well, right up our alley.”
“You know that it is all edge theory,” Henry informed him.
“Henry,” Doctor Stein changed to a more serious tone. “Do you know what this place is?”
To be honest, he wasn't exactly sure. An invitation to meet Doctor Stein, all expenses paid, had reached him in Germany a few days ago. Typically, Henry would have ignored it, but he hadn't been working on anything important. He was also a bit surprised that a high-end research company would have a location in the middle of nowhere. But he was more surprised when the car pulled up to the facility.
Reliant Dynamic Science was housed in a renovated mansion in the middle of an empty plot of land. It was all grass and sky as far as the eye could see. The house must have been over a hundred years old. The facade and architecture had been kept perfectly intact. But inside, the house was lined with power and data cables. The rooms were an amalgamation of hot labs and parlors. Doctor Stein's office was no different, with a computer terminal built into an antique bookshelf.
“From what I have seen, something top secret and advanced,” Henry answered.
“We work solely in, as you phrased it, edge science,” Doctor Stein told him.
For the first time since Henry met the disheveled little man, he was intrigued. Sitting forward he said, “You want to fund this project?”
“Yes and no,” Doctor Stein said. He clenched his jaw as he tried to work out the best way to word his explanation without giving anything away. “We have a project that could benefit from your line of thought. With the funds from that project, we are prepared to grant you money to continue your research.” He added, “At this facility of course.”
“Yes, yes,” Henry said thinking. “How much over-sight?”
“Like I said, we specialize in edge science, so we have an understanding attitude,” Doctor Stein replied.
Henry took no time settling into the mansion. His things were packed and shipped from his home in Germany. He soon learned that the Victorian house was only the tip of the RDS iceberg. The research facility had five subterranean levels. There was a tunnel leading out to the main road that concealed the large shipments coming and going.
Henry was staying in one of the underground dormitories. His room was just large enough to fit a bed, but that didn't matter because he wasn't getting much sleep.
From day one, the other researchers already had a number of projects and requests for him. His doctorates in medical research and engineering were being put to use. As well as his Ph.D.'s in math. But being the new guy, most of what they had him working on was basic number crunching and tests. Not exactly the edge science that Doctor Stein had implied.
Henry’s main project was designing artificial limbs that performed as close to real as possible. The challenge was the mechanics of the device, the control system and the materials used to manufacture it. All of which Henry had solved in his first week there, he just didn't tell anyone. It was partially because they had relegated him to ‘lab assistant.' He knew it was petty, but there was logic to his plan. Despite his talents and abilities the others didn’t respect him. He had experienced the same thing as a child genius. So he understood that in such a situation, it was best to solve the problem quietly and then wait until the others failed.
In this case, Henry had designed schematics for the limbs, created a human to machine interface and developed hardened material that was resistant to damage and wear. During the process though, he discovered that the project would be a failure, at least to his standards. Yes, the researchers would produce the product that had been requested. They would even get a pat on the back for their good work. Admittedly, the problem wasn’t with the staff, but the vision of the financier. Henry saw that the project could go far beyond what their backer had dreamed.
So he spent his time creating what he knew would be revolutionary science by using the materials and resources of RDS, and in his spare time worked out equations for his co-workers.
At the moment, he was waiting for the computer to finish machining one of his designs. The noise of the laser cutter didn't bother him as he stood in front of a white board thinking. There was a long equation written in black and Henry's notes in blue.
“Doctor Schreier, did you finish those structural tests on the joints?” Jenny Banks asked. She was lead medical engineer on the project. Relatively attractive, if you took into account that they had all been cooped up together for months. Biological reactions being as they were, people tended to see things differently when going without sex for so long. She only had an MD but was specialized in vascular surgery and seemed to have a proficiency in mechanics. There was no real reason she should be the head of anything, except that her father was some sort of General. “Doctor,” she said louder to get his attention.
“The joint will fail at two point three foot pounds of rotational torque,” Henry replied.
“Can I see the report,” Jenny asked annoyed.
“I did not write a report because I did not do any tests,” Henry was still staring at the white board.
“First off, I told you to run those tests last week,” Jenny was shouting over the laser cutter. “Second, you can't make up data; we need facts, because this is science.”
Henry put the cap on the marker he was holding and turned to Jenny. “I did not do the tests because it was obvious from looking at the thing that it was flawed. The calculations I used were simply based on the materials and measurements.” Something occurred to him at that moment, and he asked, “Do you know the potential atomic energy of an apple?”
Jenny Banks put her hands out and clenched her fingers. She was nearly about to strangle him. “What the hell are you working on? What the hell are you machining in here? Why are you not doing what you're told? You're not paid to fool around; this is serious stuff we are working on.”
“I heard the Chinese were doing something with teleportation,” Henry said, “I thought it would be fun to work out the math.”
“That's not why you're here,” Jenny yelled.
“Yes, I know,” Henry said. Now he was getting angry. “I am here because Doctor Stein thought I might be instrumental in creating a human interface for your project. But what I'm doing is solving equations that a college freshman could do.”
“Doctor Stein may be the head of this facility, but he has no idea how things work down here,” Jenny gestured violently with her hands. “It's all fine and good to hire someone to come up with some fantasy theories, but we work in practical science. We make things that are possible today, not in the future when we have flying cars. So you may be Stein’s new toy, but the man is an idiot.”
“Yes, I assumed so,” Henry said flatly, “Otherwise why would he have hired you?”
“You son of a bitch...” Jenny stomped forward ready to slap him when she caught sight of what was being made in the laser cutter. “What exactly is that?” She leaned down to look through the observation window. The laser was shooting around faster than the eye could see. It was cutting and shaping a hollow tube. As it went along, the tube tapered down and took on a gentle curve.
“A left ulna,” Henry answered.
“And the material?”
“A compressed weave of tungsten fibers.”
“How did you get them to...?” Jenny tried to ask.
Henry cut her off, “Doctor Banks, if you do not mind I have a lot to do. A bioelectric nervous system does not build itself.”