The meeting between Rawbone and Ted Powell took place in a parking garage in San Jose, about 40 miles southeast of Fort Richardson.
Rawbone had no idea who Ted Powell represented in the matter, and didn't want to know. Ted Powell only knew that his boss, Preston Miles, had offered a fairly large bonus for completing this transaction.
I was crouched comfortably on a girder fifty feet above the pair as they met, with steel on both sides of me and a thick wall of steel reinforced concrete at my back. There would be no surprises like the one Quake had given me the last time!
I was prepared for Ted Powell to have some sort of power, even to be a coercer, but he proved to be pretty ordinary, at least in that way. Sharply efficient, ruthless and cold, but otherwise ordinary. His mind didn't show any obvious signs of tampering, ham-handed or otherwise. His value to his employer appeared to be his resourcefulness and his contacts within the gang world.
The image of Preston Miles that I got was of a smooth, sophisticated businessman, almost European in his dress and mannerisms, with dark brown hair and brown eyes set in a thin, elegant face. Ted Powell had only met him in person once, and that was at the beginning of the current situation. Preston Miles had requested his services personally, and that bespoke its importance.
Beyond his recent close association with the boss, Ted Powell was a low level executive whose job was a cover for the seedier activities that Praetor Corp engaged in, and over which he had some control.
I read in Ted Powell's mind that there would be no follow-up meeting with the boss over this deal, and it was a single event affair — his mind contained no list of other nefarious operations in Fort Richardson. The intended effects of this operation, and their success or failure, were not his concern and, he assumed, would be apparent to the boss without any feedback from him. Powell himself didn't even know what the hoped for results were supposed to be.
Following Ted Powell any further was going to a waste of time. He had already proved to be a dead end, and it appeared that I was going to have to make a road trip to Los Angeles to find out any more.
I got back to the apartment in Fort Richardson, and out of my Midnight gear and into a soft sweater and comfy pajama bottoms just in time for my alarm bracelet to go off. The bracelet was an idea I'd had that let my sensor network alert me to police APBs and other emergency broadcasts and citywide alerts when I wasn't in uniform.
I sighed, and popped out of the comfy clothes, putting the armor back on and activating the head gear to get access to the comm suite.
Police reports coming in indicated that a bad guy who went by the name of Lord Steel was within the city limits and headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My Museum!
I slid on the rest of my gear and jumped Wing back into the skies above me, while at the same time flashing through my super villain database looking for anything I had on Lord Steel.
Hmm. Fifteen foot tall mechanical suit of armor. No guns, rockets, lasers, etc. Just mechanical muscles, and crushing steel claws. Oh goody! I had really been looking forward to butting heads with someone I could just have a fistfight with. This looked like it might be my opportunity.
I dropped out of the sky three blocks southwest of the museum, and could see the bad guy coming up Santo Lora Boulevard, one of the city's wider thoroughfares.
I tripped one of my new holographic effects, borrowed again from the work my sister-in-law Cor had done with gravitic field-supported holography. I hovered twenty feet above the street, surrounded by a coruscating ball of 'midnight force', its dark energy licking out in slick, fast moving tendrils. All of it nearly unreal, of course.
"No further, rust bucket!" I called out, using the comm suite in my armor to amplify my voice. I was aware of the dozens of police cars pulling up in the cross streets, as well as in front of the museum behind me.
"Rust bucket!" Came the reply, also amplified. Lord Steel jumped it into high gear and came running at me at high speed, taking a big swing as he did. I braced myself, wrapping a little more Light-based shielding around my armor and let the blow land.
Damn! There was some real power there! The blow knocked me backwards through the air a good twenty feet. When I came to a stop in mid-air, I triggered another holographic effect. The field of Midnight force around me collapsed into a ball, becoming a form-fitting impenetrable blackness. I mentally toggled an option from the controls available in my Heads Up Display, and the field continued to grow until it had grown to a size very close to that of Lord Steel's.
"Nice shot," I said, in a voice amplified even more than before, and made deep and hollow. "Let's see how you handle one from me."
I flew back towards him and swung a comparable blow, knocking him back and down, causing the pavement of the street to crack and buckle slightly where he hit. I let my new form lower slowly to the ground, and once there, I used the HUD controls again to give me some weight and apparent mass. Manipulating gravity fields didn't just mean making things lighter - sometimes heavier is better. The artificial mass made my giant black shape sink into the pavement with every step I took towards Lord Steel. The Metal clad bad guy was back on his feet by the time I got there, and I let him have another shot. While he swung, I was scanning him with all my Light senses. There was a man in there, and he was very well shielded. but after a sweep through his mind and memories, I knew the who and what of him, although the why was going to take some further understanding. Lord Steel was Trey Young, and he was also pretty ordinary, at least as far as that blurry resistance I had witnessed with other super powered people on Terana went.
The steel the suit was made of, and its power source were another story. There was definitely something special about the power source. Looking at that, I decided I would be wise to not assume too much about Lord Steel as a foe.
I had that thought, but at the same time, I really had been looking forward to a face-to-face, toe-to-toe, stand up slugging match.
"This is fun, but we're too likely to hurt someone accidentally, and for sure we're going to keep banging up people's property, not to mention the city streets," I said out loud, but more to myself than to the bad guy.
"Shut up bitch!" was his reply.
"C'mon Rust King, whaddya say? Shall we move this dance someplace more private?" I said playfully. "And why is it that every super villain in town has to refer to me as a bitch?"
I didn't wait for a response, but activated a ball of darkness to envelop the both of us, and in the middle of that cover, I jumped us both to as bare a patch of desert as I could find, due east of us in Nevada.
"What? Where the hell are we?" came the question, as soon as the new surroundings were apparent.
"Somewhere in the Nevada desert," I answered. "Nowhere special, just someplace empty where no one can get hurt except you or me."
I stepped in and took a good swing, knocking him back thirty feet, flat on his metal ass, where he slowly came to a halt after skidding across the dry and dusty flat. He jumped up immediately, roaring in anger. I ran over immediately, with no intention of waiting for him to decide it was his turn. He surprised me by grabbing rather than punching, and with a spinning throw that any Olympic hammer thrower would have been proud of, he launched me like a bullet across the desert floor. I hit the ground after ten feet and slid another thirty.
I got up, dusted myself off and walked back over to stand in front of him.
"C'mon, asshole. Show me what you've got," I taunted, hitting him with another punch, a straight jab this time rather than another of the haymakers we'd been exchanging so far. Reflexively, he jabbed back, a good solid jab too. I reacted by reaching out with my left for an open handed slap across the head. He jabbed again and I counter punched from the right, coming back with something I launched from about the belt, hitting right in the middle of his shiny steel chest. He punched back, abandoning the jab as well.
We stood there and exchanged punch after punch. It seemed like an hour, but my suit told me later it was only fifteen minutes. That steel suit of his was amazingly well built, and he seemed able to absorb an endless amount of punishment at this power level without showing any damage, or even any signs of tiring. I'd had fun, but I had finally had my fill.
"Okay, enough's enough," I said, jumping back out of punching range. I felt for his Light signature inside the suit, and jumped Trey Young out of his suit. I sat him on the ground on the other side of me and deactivated the giant midnight force version of me, letting the holographic disguise fade and the accompanying force fields die.
"Tell me Trey," I asked the almost naked man, "why do you run around causing so much damage in your fine suit there?"
"I do it because... because its what I do!" he said, angry and confused, as if this was the first time he had considered the question.
.... There is more of this story ...