“Uh huh. Yeah, I got you,” I said to an idiot I never intended to talk to in the first place. “So, is Dr. Schwartz still with you over there, or did he already leave the room? Uh huh.” I’d tried to get in contact with a research scientist. He rejected my offer, or that’s how I’ve chosen to take his decision to pawn me off on this other guy. This doctor I’m on the phone with is a psychologist. While psychology could still be handy for other areas of my empire, this guy’s most noteworthy feature is this cult he runs on the side. I’m all for religious tolerance in Ricca, but I’m more than happy with the cult I’ve already got over here. They believe in makin the Earth a utopia for their followers by developing it and growing an abundance of food.
It’d be a step up if this guy’s cultists wove rugs or baskets. All they do instead is harass people online and complain about Disney movies. Real bottom of the barrel stuff, but those are the kinds of idiots you pick up when your profound message is “Clean your rooms.”
“Anyway, I’d love to hire you,” I said, figuring I could at least make some use of this guy. “I really would, but there’s a black mark out there. Yeah, it IS the secret cabal of postmodernists and Marxists, how did you know? I know, man. Tell you what, once you’ve managed to destroy college, we’ll see, ok? Yeah, goodbye now.” I hung up on him. Geez, with professors like him, there’s certainly someone undermining western education. I’m sure he’ll be tweeting about who he thinks it is any minute now.
Times like this make me wonder if there might be some truth to the Chinese notion of the Mandate of Heaven. The idea is that Heaven’s where the gods live, and the gods keep watch on how Chinese emperor’s do. Every once in awhile, the emperor lapses in his duty and becomes all hedonistic and unable to protect the empire. As a result, the gods decide to hand over his mandate for ruling to someone else, and allows a new dynasty to take over. It’s all just a religious way to justify a dynasty overthrowing the last bunch, but sometimes the world skims close enough to narrative causality as to make one wonder.
Don’t expect me to get religion all of a sudden. Especially not when I get a chance to once again walk through the Institute of Science. Aside from that time I stopped in briefly to salvage a few things and make sure the place wasn’t going to blow the entire island apart, I haven’t had time to come down here myself. Too many problems, too few of me. Instead, I threw other mercenaries of both the mundane and superhuman stripe at the problem until they got lucky. The regular mercs haven’t been seen since. I looked. This batch of villains who succeeded had someone walk me around the place to look it over and I have yet to see any uniforms, guns, or identifiable body parts that belong to those guys.
The guide continued rambling about their little adventure while I walked alongside, my interest or lack thereof hidden behind my helmet. The skinny fellow with goggles strapped over his face didn’t seem to mind. “Olympian and Berserk worked together, but the rest of us were all strangers. We collectively agreed post-victory that our success insinuates natural compatibility. Ergo, we intend to maintain our relationship as a cohesive unit. The team voted to call ourselves Power Company, which I maintain sounds cheesy.”
“What would you have preferred?” I asked as we passed by an open door that used to be one of the animal testing labs. Power Company had left the bodies of the killer mutant test animals all over the place. No wonder the world’s so fucked up. If the wings and ceiling bloodstains are any indications, we’re at the point in time when pigs fly.
“I thought we should call ourselves Future Force, but I was outvoted. Over here is where we fought the Boar Lord!” He led me to another of the rooms, a supply room. Inside it lay the body of a man-sized pig with bat-like wings and tusks that curved around the side of its head like horns.
I gave it a prod with my boot. “I’m sure there’s a story behind this guy, but it’s probably a boar.”
I ended up paying off the Power Company with some money from the auction of Amelia Earhart’s plane. Now that we’ve let the revelation out and confirmed the presence of her bones, we’re getting some amazing offers on buying up all the remains, though we didn’t advertise that it was our Deep One immigrants who dragged her up out of the ocean. The Directory and I have come to an agreement that we shouldn’t advertise how much more easily we can exploit underwater resources now in case it affects international prices or immigration policy with other countries that focus on that sort of thing. I’ve even invested some of my own money in a company of Deep Ones going into the oil and mining businesses with deposits nobody else can reach.
So we have money, which buys off the Power Company. What we need is knowledge, which is power. Which brings us back to needing some scientists. I brought in Dr. Quincy at first. He seemed enthusiastic about seeing the purpose-built facility for science, up until he found out it was in dire need of remodeling and cleaning. “Mind the corpses,” I told him. “Some of them should be retained for study, but I imagine many of them can be used to fertilize some of your experiments.”
“Are you sure you need me in a building full of dead bodies?” the plant biologist asked.
I rolled my eyes under my helmet. “The dead are nothing to be afraid of, doctor. They’re rarely responsible for the death of the living, at least nowadays. There was the Black Plague, of course, and that incident with Sigurd the Mighty being killed from a bite by a decapitated man, but we live in an age of science and reason. Not like back in those old times when people thought holy corpses didn’t rot or that black people had some sort of physiological deficiency that made them naturally less intelligent than white people. This is no time for silly superstitions about dead bodies.”
“Sir, are we being recorded?” he asked as he picked his way carefully around dried stains.
“No,” I lied. It’s for the best most people don’t realize I record stuff to the cyberized portion of my brain.
“Oh. It feels like it, because sometimes you seem to speak to an audience that isn’t present,” he followed up with.
“Ha! What a kidder,” I said, then played a laugh track through my suit’s sound system where he could here it. “Now then, let’s get a good look at the place and figure out a few things before the guys with the wheelbarrows show up demanding we bring out our dead.”
Between the both of us, we were able to pinpoint several things needing to be repaired or replaced beyond the basic engineering of the place. I was going to have specialists come in to look at that part of things as well, but I wanted an assessment of the type of building features that’ll be more important for the place’s function, albeit an incomplete assessment due to differences in fields. We were, sadly, both stumped by one particular room. It was in a floor set aside for General Studies, a sort for miscellaneous projects or research into areas that hadn’t yet led to specific avenues of exploration for weaponry, energy, and so on.
It was one of the stops the mercenaries had clearly been by. They’d left markers in the form of portable emergency lights they bolted to the walls. Occasionally, bullet holes testified to their passage through the place. The only problem is that this room appeared to be the last place they put up lights. It didn’t look like anything violent had occurred in there, either. The room was centered around a broken transparent container with some odd shards. Quincy stooped to pick up one of the shards. “This isn’t glass.”
He handed it up to me. The weight was all wrong for glass, but my suit was able to figure it out it. “Clear aluminum. Strong stuff. This glowy thingy was important.” I said, pointing the broken piece of clear metal toward the thing floating in the middle of the container. The thing looked like a cylinder of some sort of clear material with lines of a dark metal running through it. It glowed blue for us, becoming even brighter as Quincy stood up and approached.
“Uh uh, doc. Let’s not touch the mysterious glowing thing that appears to have blown out a holding cell of thick aluminum,” I told him.
“Don’t you hear that?” he asked, otherwise ignoring me to keep moving toward it.
Uh uh, I’ve seen how this movie ends. I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and yanked him back. He skidded along the seat of his pants on the floor. The scrawny fellow tried to get up and move past me, but I carried him out the door and pulled out my latest laser potato peeler to weld the thing shut. “I know you don’t mess around with this sort of super science stuff on a daily basis, doctor, but we do not touch mysterious glowing things in the middle of abandoned rooms. That goes double if you start hearing things. You got me?”
The doctor was flushed with excitement and frustration at failing to get past me, but he slumped against the wall. “You don’t understand, it was calling to me.”
“I think I understand better than you, so let me lay it out for you. If you go back in there, you better hope it kills you, because I will make sure you end up dead no matter what. That lab is off limits until I get something in there to contain it.” I bopped him lightly on the head with the piece of transparent aluminum I’d carried out. “Something tougher than this. Now come on, there’s going to be a lot of hard work and elbow grease spent getting this place ready for action again.”
“I didn’t think you would be so eager to roll up your sleeves, uh, sir,” Quincy added, trying to make the comment sound at least a tiny bit respectful.
“Psh, no, I mean come on, let’s get out of here so the guys I pay to do all the menial work can come in and do all that. I’ve scheduled my daughter and I some massages, and then I have to boss people around to find a dwelling for the dude I’m getting to run this place. Before that, though, let’s go hit up a rice stand. All this pretending to work business has me hungry.”
So that’s a secret cabal of supervillains, a Nazi, monsters secretly controlling a source of oil, and a mysterious glowing object hidden in an underground lab. All I need to do is find Bigfoot in a lab and fuck a Chupacabra.