A few hours earlier…
“Are you absolutely sure about this?”, Widard asked from behind his desk, incredulous.
“Yes. I’ve run every test I could think of at least twice“, Melody answered. She was still in her workshop-jumpsuit (though she had zipped it up), as she had been summoned from her work to discuss her report on the ravenbots.
“We need to be absolutely sure. I know you understand what it would mean if your analysis is accurate”, Amazon answered. The tall woman had joined the discussion as she was the highest-ranking member left in the city. Clad in a skintight scarlet jumpsuit, with a token domino mask, and with short-cut blond hair, she looked every bit the high-level Adonis-type.
“I can confirm her analysis – my power backs her up and it hasn’t been wrong yet”, Irene supplied. Unlike Melody, Irene had changed into her costume, complete with her cape.
Patrid, who was leaning against the edge of Widard’s desk, rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger. “This is the last thing we need”, he sighed, uncharacteristically subdued.
“I don’t see why this has to be such a bad thing. Whoever made these could very well be a potential hero – maybe they just started out and that is why we don’t know about them“, Melody replied.
Widard, Patrid and Amazon looked at each other. By silent agreement, Widard took the helm: “Melody, you of all people should know that a gadgeteer needs an extensive support network to even begin working. If whoever made these robots is already able to produce this kind of work, but hasn’t joined either the government – in which case, we would know about them – or us, then that must mean that he or she is getting support from somewhere else. Most likely, then, a supervillain.”
“Or maybe he or she is just filthy rich“, threw Melody in.
“True, that is possible. But unlikely, seeing as how the Hawaii Act allows the government to track any and all transactions above 10.000$. We would know if the materials for that mass of robots, along with the facilities and equipment needed to construct them, had been purchased legally. So we have to conclude, until disproven, that whoever did this is either a villain who is not as messed up as the Rabid Eight – a feat that does not mean much, all things considered – or a vigilante. Both of which are a problem”, Patrid said. “I would also like to add the fact that whoever made these had no trouble launching a near lethal attack on El Conquistadore. True, he is a monster, but it still says something about the master of those ravens that they went for the kill.”
Melody chewed over that, then said: “What if their creator is not the same person as their controller? Maybe the Gadgeteer behind them is being forced or tricked into making them for someone else?“
Amazon raised an eyebrow. “This sounds almost like you want them to be a good guy. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but why this vehemence?”
“That’s easy, Amazon”, said Irene. All four turned to her. “Melody simply hopes that she and the raven’s creator could work together – her work is extremely advanced and might mesh well with Melody’s.”
“We are currently operating under the assumption that the creator of these ravens is female“, explained Melody.
“Any reason for such an estimate?”, asked Patrid interested.
“Melody’s intuition tells her it’s a girl. And my power gives that possibility a 67% chance”, supplied Irene.
“Well, either way, I want the team to take measures assuming the worst case scenario. That means taking note of any raven you see, being prepared for sudden attacks and wearing protection against sonic attacks”, ordered Amazon. “We are currently at the brink of a war with the more militant parts of the Sovjet Union, the Califate is moving, more and more Spiteborn are appearing and criminal activity has picked up since the fall of the Sovjet Union’s leadership, as there are now quite a few army bases where the officers and soldiers are not getting their paychecks, so they are selling equipment to the black market – in some cases, even Gadgeteer-made equipment – so we have more and more normal criminals with the firepower necessary to threaten metahumans up in the B-Class. The last thing we can afford right now is to lose any of you, even temporarily.”
“And on that front, I want you, Gloom Glimmer, to go out for a patrol – your file says that you only need a few hours of sleep a week, so we’d like to capitalize on that”, said Widard.
“Sure thing, Boss”, answered Irene.
“Can I tag along? I’m not that tired yet“, asked Melody, only to try and stifle a yawn.
Widard was about to deny her, when Irene cut in: “I could energize her. It’s not even harmful, unless I do it more often than once a week.” Melody gave her a thankful smile.
“Well, alright. Go out and take care you two”, he conceded.
* * *
“Let us never speak of that again“, said Polymnia, still flushed from being energized by Gloom Glimmer. After having been charged up in the most embarassing manner possible, she had put on her spare suit of armor. Thankfully, the UJH headquarters had the facilities necessary to process and reproduce her work, meaning that she could always have a spare suit ready.
“Well, did you think I was just going to touch you somewhere and have you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again?”, asked Gloom Glimmer, who was levitating both of them. They were flying North – the UH headquarters were located pretty much at the center of the city, to allow for quick deployment. Since they wanted to circle the city, they would fly to the northern part of the city, then work their way counterclockwise to the harbor.The idea was that they would first fly over the populated areas, where they wanted to be seen by the civilians before bedtime, then end in the harbor, where being seen was not as important.
“Honestly – YES! I would not have thought that that kind of procedure would be necessary!”
A mischievous grin spread on Gloom Glimmer’s face: “It wasn’t. I could have just tapped you on the cheek or something.”
Polymnia opened her mouth in a mute scream.
“Why would you do that to me?!”
“I just wanted to see if you would go through with it – not to speak of the expression on your face when I told you that it was unnecessary”, answered Gloom Glimmer with a satisfied grin.
Polymnia spent the next minute cussing at her, though the profanity filter in her vocoder muted her words.
* * *
“Say, what is that tune you’re humming all the time?“, asked Polymnia after while. They had reached the western district of the city. Below them they could see soft hills and large mansions. This was the part of the city with the oldest buildings, barring the harbor, as it had been the one least destroyed by Desolation-in-Lights attack on the city.
“Oh, that one? I barely even notice it, it’s just something I can’t get out of my head”, Gloom Glimmer replied. Polymnia got the impression that she would not want to discuss this any further, so she dropped it.
“I wanted to ask something as well”, said Gloom Glimmer. “But it’s a very personal question, so don’t feel obligated to answer it, or anything.”
“Ask away. Though I won’t promise to answer.“
“I’ve read your file. I know where you come from, your familial background and everything. But I’d like to know how you manifested, if you don’t have a problem with it.”
“It’s only me being curious.”
“I’ll tell if you tell. And you go first.”
“Deal. But you’ll be disappointed, because I can’t remember.”
“Are you kidding me? There is NO WAY anyone could forget their manifestation, unless you’ve been mindf***ed beyond belief!“
“I didn’t forget it, it’s just that I had it when I was still in my mothers womb – just like my sister. I can’t remember it because I couldn’t even think back then.”
“Your powers manifested in… I though that had only been a fluke when it happened to your sister!“
“Well, my parents have only had two children with each other, so there wasn’t exactly much data on that particular circumstance. But yeah, I got my powers when my mother was just seven months pregnant. And I got my first shot of power suppressants barely a minute later, to prevent a repeat performance like with my sister.”
“Wow. Talk about a difficult pregnancy. I guess it’s my turn now? Give me a minute.”
They flew quietly over the western district, waving at a few civilians they passed. In one case, Gloom Glimmer fired a golden blast towards a playground that exploded into a shower of butterflies, delighting the children.
“I manifested a bit over a year ago. It was… kind of stupid, really. My family is really, really musical – every one knows how to sing, every one knows how to play at least one instrument. But I was never able to carry a single tune. The only thing I was good at was helping my uncle who built musical instruments. But that wasn’t enough to take part in all the family performances we did. And my mother, who’s an internationally known violinist, was always disappointed that of her five children, her only daughter could not sing or play an instrument. So I was left behind time and time again. Then, about a year ago, my family was doing one of their big performances in New York and I was back home because I just couldn’t stand going along and being the fifth wheel. I was sitting in my workshop, trying to play a violin of my mother I had fixed up for her. But, of course, I failed. And I failed. I spent hours trying to play, but I just couldn’t do it. And… well, that’s it. I was sitting there, trying to play the Violin I had just repaired and I was crying, and angry both with myself and my family and… I can’t put it in words, it was like a current was being run through my body and my mind was opening – I couldn’t see my surroundings anymore because I had all these ideas, raw and unformed, pure inspiration. And, at the same time, I started to hear, really hear every sound around me.”
She paused for a moment, lost in her own memories.
“When I came to, I was still in my workshop, only two days had passed. I was drenched in sweat, but when I stood up and picked up the Violin, I just knew how to play it perfectly. And I played and for the first time in my life, I was good. And then I noticed that my body had changed – I had grown almost half a foot, plus all the other improvements. Quite a shock, I tell you, though not as much as being unable to produce a sound with my own mouth.”
“When my family came back the next day, I greeted them playing a Violin I had made myself. You cannot imagine their surprise.”