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Authors: Phil Hester,Jon S. Lewis,Shannon Eric Denton,Jake Bell

Megamatrix Hero Within (3 page)

BOOK: Megamatrix Hero Within
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Eventually, they arrived at the ruins of an old building. Despite being in the heart of the city, it looked more like a jungle. Trees and weeds had grown over the walls that had probably been gleaming white at some point in the past. A fence surrounded the entire plot of land, adorned by signs with radioactive symbols. In no uncertain terms, everyone was to stay out.

Once, long ago, it had been the headquarters for the Global Defenders before Technein had destroyed them all. The story Technein told everyone was that when they realized they had lost, the Global Defenders purposely set off a nuclear reactor beneath the base to meltdown. That was enough to keep everyone out. No one was curious enough to risk radiation poisoning.

"Come on. Before anyone sees us," Miguel whispered, pointing to a hole in the fence large enough to crawl through.
“Wait, we’re not going in there,” Fletcher protested.
“What? The radiation?” Miguel asked with a chuckle. “You afraid you’re going to grow gills and start breathing underwater?”
Josh laughed as he scampered through to the other side of the fence.

A frustrated Miguel grabbed the fence that separated them and locked eyes with Fletcher. "We have to get off the street, Fletcher. Now either follow us or don't, but whatever you do, do it quietly."

Fletcher watched them disappear into the darkness toward the ruins. He gripped the chain link fence with his fingertips and shook it with rage. No good could come of this. If the radiation didn’t get them, some of Technein's goons probably would.

“I guess this makes me an idiot, too,” he muttered as he slipped through the fence and hurried after Miguel and Josh.

The weeds were as high as his thighs and covered pieces of rubble that made it impossible to run without twisting an ankle. He had lost the others in the darkness and didn't dare yell out their names.

As he neared what looked like a broken marble column wrapped in vines, his left foot got caught beneath a piece of slate. He struggled to free it, but the more he pulled, the more entwined it became in the weeds.

As he leaned back to try a different angle of escape, something beneath his foot gave way. His leg sunk into the ground, and with a thud, he found himself hip deep in stone and earth.

“Josh… Miguel…” he called out in a harsh whisper, but nobody answered. Even if they’d heard him, it was unlikely they could have found him. The weeds were now towering above his head.

He pressed against the ground to try to free himself from the sinkhole, but rather than support him, the dirt only followed his leg down into the earth.

The more he pushed to free himself, the less he had to push against. Fletcher could feel the panic rising and his hips began to slide into the sinkhole. He desperately clawed at the weeds, trying to wrap them around his wrists.

Unfortunately, when the rest of the ground gave way, the weeds did nothing to stop him. He plummeted twenty feet or more before he hit a stone slope beneath him. He tumbled down the slope, cartwheeling head over heels—and banging his head, heels, and various other body parts against the stone floor and walls as he went—until he finally came to a stop.

"Hello?" he shouted back toward the way he'd come. He no longer cared if he was discovered. "Can anybody hear me?"

Something beeped, as if replying. Fletcher spun around, not sure where the noise had come from. Did bats beep? Or rats? Or some other horrible creature that lived in caves and feasted on human flesh?

Suddenly, the cave was illuminated in a dim blue light as a gigantic computer monitor flickered to life. Fletcher shielded his eyes as the long dormant computer went through the process of booting up. He scanned the room, looking for an exit. He didn't know where he was, but he knew it was somewhere he didn't belong and he wanted to get away before the people who did belong there showed up.

"Welcome," said a calm electronic voice. "You have accessed the Megamatrix of the Global Defenders." A hologram of a human-shaped... thing with metallic looking skin appeared in the middle of the room. "I am Android 7," it said, "and the fact that you are here indicates we have failed in our stated mission of defending the globe."

The hologram reached out a welcoming hand to Fletcher.

"You may be humanity's only hope."

 

CHAPTER 5

 

Fletcher didn't say anything.

"I am sure you have many questions," the hologram of Android 7 prompted.

"Are you talking to me?" Fletcher asked, looking around the room as though he thought someone else might have slipped in when he wasn’t looking. "I thought you were just a recording."

"Before my final battle with a supervillain named Technein, I downloaded a copy of my memories into this computer. I have been left in charge of the Megamatrix and charged with the guidance of those who will inherit its powers."

"Huh?" Fletcher grunted. "Powers?"

"Years ago, the Global Defenders fought a losing battle against evil. It seemed inevitable that supervillains would defeat us and take control of the world."

"Yeah, you figured that out all by yourselves, huh?" Fletcher grumbled.

"In light of this potential danger, Dr. Arnold Slater, known to many as the superhero Max Molecule, suggested we store our powers in order to pass them on if any of us should die. He invented the Megamatrix, a machine capable of replicating, storing, and passing superpowers to a new generation of superheroes capable of succeeding where we failed."

Fletcher stepped out of the corner and examined the computer. "Are you saying this thing can give me superpowers?"

"You and the others. That was our intention when we left the series of clues that led you here. Only by coming together with others and sharing the clues you each found would you ever be able to find this place. Where are the others?”

Fletcher hadn’t found any clues. But somehow he got the impression that if he told this hologram that all he’d done was fall through a sinkhole, he might not get to have any superpowers.

"Yeah, maybe," he replied. "How does this thing work?"

A pillar of glass and metal rose from a hatch in the center of the floor. As it powered up, it glowed blue. A small panel on its side slid open, revealing a line of small electronic devices. "Take one of these and attach it to your chest," Android 7 instructed.

Fletcher picked up the one of the devices to get a better look. It was round and about the size of hockey puck, flat on one side and rounded on the other. He lifted his shirt and pressed the flat side against his skin.

Android 7, "This pain will be momentary."

"What pai--?" said Fletcher as his words were cut off by the sound of his own screaming.

Searing pain shot through him, dropping him to the floor. He clawed at the device in a desperate attempt to remove it, but with no luck. It felt like a mole was trying to burrow its way through his heart. A mole with a million razor-sharp teeth.

"Dr. Slater suggested the installation process might be painful. His hypothesis appears correct.," Android 7 observed.

Though it felt like hours, ten seconds later, the device was firmly attached to Fletcher's sternum. He managed to get back on his feet and pointed an accusing finger at Android 7. "Next time, you should warn people about that."

"I did," Android 7 said unapologetically. "You may now choose which of the powers you want to download from the Megamatrix."

Another hologram appeared beside Android 7. A man in a orange suit holding a bow with a quiver of arrows on his back stared blankly ahead, as though he was having his driver's license photo taken.

"Archer," Android 7 said. "The legendary marksman who wielded the enchanted Bow of Merlin."

The hologram changed to a woman in a star-spangled and red-striped outfit carrying a torch.

"Liberty Torch, a classic symbol of American patriotism and bearer of the magical Liberty Torch capable of bringing her very thoughts to flaming reality."

The holograms continued along with Android 7's narration. Max Molecule could grow to the size of a giant or shrink to the size of an ant. Red Wraith was a master of stealth and invisibility. Ali Babba could see any place he had ever been and could teleport across a thousand leagues with his Omnipresent Belt. Lord Trident held dominion over the seas.

And then there was Korgus.

Fletcher remembered his mother talking about Korgus. Android 7 called him an "otherworldly berserker," but Fletcher's mom called him a monster. She'd been terrified of the behemoth who seemed as likely to crush someone as save her from a burning building. In the hologram, he gripped a huge iron ball at the end of a long chain that wrapped around his forearm.

Fletcher imagined facing the bum in the alley and his rusty knife, only instead of turning to run, he swung a five-hundred pound iron ball and chain as easily as he would a yo-yo. He imagined what it would have been like that afternoon to not have to duck into the restaurant, but to catch that falling car and throw it back. He imagined how things would be different if he hadn't needed to hide in Miguel's basement and could have been home with his mother when the bus--

He pressed the download button. A jolt of energy surged through his chest. It felt like the device was a funnel and someone was pouring lava into him. The heat and electricity of it all tore through his bloodstream, affecting every molecule of his body. After it ended, he felt weak... but stronger.

Fletcher took a deep breath and felt better with every passing second. Eager to see the results, he stomped over to a pile of rocks that remained from the original hidden passageway to the cave that Android 7 had destroyed so many years earlier. He picked up a rock and squeezed it in his bare hand.

It crumbled to dust.

He thought about the ball and chain from the hologram, but before he could ask Android 7 where to find it, it appeared in his right hand, crackling with an energy he'd never seen on earth. He swung it around like a pocket watch and smiled. The ball must have weighed as much as a refrigerator and each link of the chair was larger than a man's foot, yet he easily controlled it.

"Oh, I'm going to have fun with this," Fletcher said to himself.

"And so the new Korgus is born," Android 7 declared. "Congratulations. Now go get the others so we can fill the ranks of the Global Defenders again."

Fletcher looked at the other discs in the pillar, wondering which power Josh would choose, when the computer beeped at him.

"SELECT POWER MATRIX TO DOWNLOAD," the computer screen prompted him.

Fletcher read the prompt again and again. Was the computer mistaken? Or was it possible to download more than one power? When Android 7 told him to find others to take on the powers of the other Global Defenders, Fletcher assumed the Megamatrix could only download one set of powers to each disc. Now, he wondered if that was true.

He looked over his shoulder at Android 7, who wasn’t making a move to stop him.

Braving the pain, he pressed the button again and felt the lava flow into his chest once more. When it was finished, he looked down at his shoes. Instinctively, his feet rose off the cave floor.

He was flying.

Liberty Torch's ability to fly, her enhanced senses, and her lightning fast reflexes were all his now.

"Wait," Android 7 protested. "You should seek out teammates. Share the power with others. You will need allies at your side for the task at hand."

Fletcher eyed the hologram suspiciously. "Are you going to stop me from taking all these powers for myself?"

"I can not stop you--" Android 7 began, but that was all Fletcher needed to hear.

 

CHAPTER 6

 

Leaping from one rooftop to another may not be that impressive a feat for someone who can fly, but Fletcher was still new to all this and found it quite a bit of fun.

One step, two steps, and then it was like something exploded beneath his feet, hurling him twenty or thirty yards at a time. Yet as he ran and when he landed, it was as quiet as if he were tiptoeing across pillows thanks to Red Wraith's stealth.

He could count the number of times he could remember being outside at night on one hand. Now, he couldn't imagine ever staying indoors again.

He'd flown through the clouds for almost half an hour until he passed over the gulf, where the lapping of the water on the shore sounded like the most beautiful music he'd ever heard. He plunged in and swam to depths he'd never imagined, just like Lord Trident. It wasn't clear how he breathed underwater, but he didn't care. The sea was a chorus of voices, all welcoming him. Fish, dolphins, sharks, eels, crabs, they all called him "Sire."

When he finally emerged from the water, Fletcher used Ali Babba’s omnivision to look for Miguel and his brother at the ruins of the Global Defenders’ headquarters, but couldn’t find them. He looked in on Miguel's house. Then at their apartment.

The bus was still embedded in the wall.

Without Ali Babba’s belt, Fletcher had to fly. In a burst of anger, he ripped through the sky at speeds that would make a jet pilot jealous. When he got to the apartment, he threw open the door and pushed the bus back through the hole it had made. With a satisfying rending of metal and smashing of glass, it fell to the ground below. He stood at the edge of the hole in the wall, looking down on the bus's remains. He felt better, but the sight of it still made him sick.

He wanted to fly away, somewhere farther than he'd ever been in his life. But Fletcher quickly realized he didn't know anywhere else.

He knew the names of other cities, and he'd heard the horror stories of what life was like there, but he had no idea where they were or how to get there. What little school he'd had never covered geography.

And that was how he came to be hopping from rooftop to rooftop, heading back toward the ruins where he'd left his brother and Miguel.

As he cleared Tanner Street, he noticed two men hunkered around the back door of a medical clinic. One was trying to pick the lock while the other kept a lookout, peering out in both directions, but never looking up where Fletcher was perched. Not that he would have seen Fletcher anyway as he used his stealth powers to blend perfectly into the night.

BOOK: Megamatrix Hero Within
7.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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