“Bullshit.” Myra crowed.
Erich barely spared her a glance, his focus entirely on the Meta in front of him.
“As uncouth as my compatriot’s phrasing might be,” Zigzag nodded, “I find myself in agreement. I’ve seen video of that suit of yours, as well as the drone. Impressive work.”
Erich shook his head, ignoring Sarah’s glare. “Just good old-fashioned engineering work. Mundane technology wrapped around a few second-hand bits of Artificer tech.”
Specifically, the power source and weapons systems. Not that he couldn’t replicate those systems as well, but even he couldn’t get them small enough to fit in a suit.
Maybe on the back of a truck, he thought glumly.
Myra looked like she still wanted to argue, but Zigzag raiser a hand, forestalling the purple Meta’s next comment.
“I still find it hard to believe… although, that would explain why you have yet to return those creations to full functionality, even after weeks in this city,” the shapeshifter murmured.
Erich resisted the urge to wince as he felt Sarah’s heel grinding into his foot.
He promptly elbowed her in the side, drawing a startled whumph of air from her, and a surprised look of indignation.
Apparently ignorant of the byplay across the table, it took Zigzag a few more moments to speak again.
“If you speak the truth, and I do mean if, then this complicates things,” they said. “My organization does not currently possess an Artificer. Hence why we were so eager to have the Mechromancer as a member.”
“Given the burgeoning conflict with the Kings, I was prepared to be quite generous in my offered terms if it mean getting you on our side.” They shrugged, “but if his prodigious talents require an Artificer to facilitate, then we have an issue.”
“Not so much of an issue.” Sarah interjected quickly, “there is a market for second-hand Meta tech.”
Zigzag shook her head. “An expensive market. The saints aren’t exactly broke, but as an organization we aren’t flush with cash either.”
“But it could act as a stopgap measure.” Sarah continued, “at least until we manage to acquire an Artificer of our own.”
“’Acquire an Artificer’ she says,” Zigzag scoffed. “You make it sound so simple. My group has been around for five years, and we still don’t have one. Hence my previous eagerness to acquire your friend.”
Erich tried to tamper it down, but he felt himself bristle, “I’m better than an Artificer.”
“Perhaps,” Zigzag shrugged. “But your value is relative to the resources available.”
Erich couldn’t exactly argue with that.
His ability to understand and streamline tech was only valuable to an organization that already had a lot of it.
To a gang like the Saints, efficiency and reliability was less valuable than quantity.
“Still, less valuable or not, the Saints would still be happy to have all three of you,” Zigzag said.
“I can’t believe you!” Sarah’s hoarse voice ground out as they drove back.
Erich shrugged, too tired to argue.
And I wasn’t the one who spent the last two hours arguing the minutia of our arrangement with the Saints, he thought.
It amazed him that Sarah still had the energy to be pissed at him.
But I suppose that’s a supervillain’s daughter for you…
“What would you have me do? Lie?” He grunted.
“Yes!” Sarah shouted as she spun the wheel to narrowly avoid a collision with another car. “It’s not like it would have been anything new for you. Hell, you didn’t even have to say anything. You could have just let me do the talking.”
He sighed, “and what would have happened when the Saints finally got around to ordering something I couldn’t produce? Like a hundred-odd laser rifles?”
Sarah shook her head, “we would have done what suppliers have done for all of human history. We would have lied, wheedled and apologized for the delay.”
“Indefinitely?” Erich asked sceptically.
“Until we found an Artificer, or more likely, the Saints became too busy with the Kings to do anything about it and I had my own hooks in the organization.” Sarah shot back.
“There’s no way they would have bought it,” he scoffed.
“I was the daughter of an Artificer, Erich.” Sarah pointed out. “I know better than anyone how erratic they are. A few months of delays and faulty products would hardly be impossible or even particularly unusual.”
Right, well… he hadn’t thought of that.
Because I use real science rather than space magic, he thought, his opinion of Artificer’s dropping even lower. A few months with nothing to show for it?
He sighed, slumping in his seat.
He’d fucked up.
He knew it. She knew it.
Of course, I’m never going to admit it.
“Right, so what did my moment of candid honesty cost us?”
“Me and Gravity.” Sarah said, “now that you’re no longer an ‘invaluable’ asset, warranting around the clock protection, the dickless wonder wants us on the front lines of the fight.”
Erich ran a hand through his hair as he considered that.
“Shit, indeed.” Sarah nodded.
“So, what am I supposed to be doing?”
The blonde shrugged, “regular tech, the occasional meta-tech, and continuing the search for an Artificer.”
“How the fuck am I supposed to find one when you and the locals can’t?” He asked frustratedly.
Sarah was completely without sympathy, “no idea, and I can’t spare any time to think about it. Thanks to you I’ve now got to subvert an organization and destroy another while dodging bullets on the front lines of a gang war.”
“Alright Techno. Time’s up. You need to get out of that chair before you turn into a vegetable.”
The youngest member of the Olympians fought to keep from smiling as he steadfastly kept his eyes on the screen in front of him. A needless act, given that his powers allowed him to manipulate it with his mind, but he found a visual connection helped him focus and lose himself in the sensation coming from his power.
“Don’t ignore me, kid.”
In his mind’s eye, he wasn’t sat in the massive control room of the Olympus base, instead he was in the depths of cyber space. Where sight and sound didn’t exist in a manner analogous to any human sense of the words.
“Alright buster, you asked for it.”
No, he was in a world of pure data. Swimming through it like a shark through the ocean, searching for his-
“Eeek!” The young man shrieked, shooting up in his chair as something cold slid down his neck and toward the base of his spine.
“Blur!” He shouted indignantly as he desperately tried to grasp the ice cube tangled in the back of his shirt; alternating between flailing impotently and glaring at the laughing blonde.
Finally fishing out the block of frozen water, he turned to yell some more, only to find himself staring into a pair of amused blue eyes.
“There,” she said, cutting him off before he could talk. “Doesn’t it feel good to be out of that chair?”
No, he thought, taking note of the litany of aches and pains that were flaring up now that he was deigning to pay attention to his weary body.
When was the last time I ate? He wondered, as his stomach rumbled.
“Here.” Blur said as she tossed him something.
Steve looked down, only to sigh in dismay as took in the wrapping.
“One of Cornucopia’s ration bars?” He asked, “really?”
Blur winced in sympathy, before shrugging.
“It has everything the body needs. And it’s a new batch, which he swears even has flavour this time.”
Somehow, Techno doubted that. For a man whose entire powerset revolved around food, Cornucopia had terrible taste in food. How often had the entire team been forced to act as testers for the man’s concoctions prior to their public release?
Only to be subjected to the most vile-
His thoughts fell away as an idea occurred to him.
“He asked you to try this out for him, didn’t he?” Techno deadpanned as he looked up at the senior superhero.
The woman’s sputtered denials were all the answer the technopath needed.
Sighing, he looked down at the bar in question, before tearing off the wrapper and biting down on the bland brown block within.
Not the worst, he thought after a few tentative chews.
It tasted only a little like tire, which he considered an improvement over the last batch of ‘instant rejuvenation’ rations that Cornucopia had produced.
Took me days to get the taste of rubber out of my mouth last time…
“Well, you haven’t run off to throw up, so I guess I can tell him that they were a success.” Blur asked as she carefully waited for some kind of reaction.
“It’s not awful,” he admitted, luxuriating in the sensation of days without sleep or food dissipating within moments of the brown goop sliding down his throat. “But I get the feeling he wanted a more in-depth check of its regenerative power than the weariness built up from a few all-nighters.”
The only response he got was some barely audible muttering about ‘not being a crash test dummy’.
It was always strange for him to see Blur acting this way.
The ‘cutesy public persona’, he had dubbed it in his mind.
Except it wasn’t just a public persona. She slipped into it often enough when outside the limelight as well. And just as often she adopted what he had dubbed her ‘serious persona’. One that swore like a sailor and seemed endlessly driven to dish out justice.
And for the life of him, he had no idea which one the real Lucy was.
“So I take it you didn’t come down here just to interrupt my work with Cornucopia’s latest insult to good taste,” he asked.
“I did actually,” Blur said as she straightened up. “Interrupt you that is. The ‘insult to good taste’ was just an added benefit.”
“Any particular reason why?”
The blonde smiled sadly, reaching forward to run her thumb of his cheek.
“You’re burning out, Techno. When was the last time you even slept?”
Steve couldn’t believe it.
“You know exactly why I’m doing this.” He grunted, ignoring her last question, because honestly, he couldn’t remember. “I need to track down these guys if we’re going to have any shot at taking down-”
“And that’s exactly why you need to sleep.” She said with her hand over his mouth. “You’re getting sloppy. Sloppy enough that you nearly blurted out a very sensitive name somewhere you shouldn’t.”
Steve nodded sheepishly.
Well, this confirms that she doesn’t trust the other Olympians.
Not that he thought she believed all of the Olympians to be in cahoots with the Shadow Guild.
But we don’t know who isn’t either, he thought glumly. And until they did, it seemed that it was just the two of them trying to uproot the secret organization growing within the Heroes Guild.
“Right,” he nodded as soon as she took her hand away. “I should probably get some sleep.”
“A shower too,” Blur smiled wryly, “you’re smelling a little… ripe.”
Steve flushed, blurting out his goodbyes as he hurried past her, and he was still blushing when he made it back to his quarters, and started stripping off.
He was so caught up in his self-recriminations, that he nearly missed it when a small note fluttered out of his costume’s front pocket.
‘Possible lead. Meet me at Dawson Park tonight at Twelve.’