A laser in the Colorado base. That's what I was looking for. A quick look around showed that Colorado had three Project X facilities, more than any other state. Why can't these clandestine informants be more specific? I pressed a button to activate my housewide PA system. "Justin, get in here."
"Why," he moaned. "I'm busy."
Probably something embarrassing, then. "Noetron, access-"
"I'll be right out." Yeah. I had a pretty good idea what he was up to.
"What's so important you had to interrupt... what I was doing."
I told him about Mephistopheles' request for a stolen laser. I left out the bit about Cognis putting me up to it.
"Well, any ideas on how to narrow it down?"
"I've thought of a few. We could look at the supplies deliver to each facility, and check if any of them seem to be the components of a laser. Noetron?"
"Working on it, sir."
"And we could also get a list of the employees, and do the same thing. Justin, think you could drum up a list of who's working at each facility?"
"I once got a list of every person in the US armed forces, and filtered them by location and-"
"I'll take that as a yes."
"I guess I should look around inside the Project X central computer and see if it happens to have the information just lying around."
In the end, it was Justin who struck gold. With around 85% confidence, he determined that the laser project was based in a hidden base a few miles north of Denver."
I sometimes fancy myself a master of disguise. But ever since I killed Crucible, I'd become even bigger news than I was before. More than ever, I was the planet's most feared geniuses, and consequently one of the most recognizable guys in the world. But, short of sending in Justin, I had no better option.
There I was, in Colorado, with a hoodie and a fake ID, trying not to look like a world-famous international criminal. Have you ever tried not to look like a world-famous international criminal? It's never quite clear what to do. Especially if you happen to be a world-famous international criminal.
"Mr. Jefferson," the security guard asked, with all the enthusiasm of someone who doesn't give a shit.
"What's your codeword for the day?"
Now that I was past the doughnut-muncher, I had to evade the real security system. I had to fool a hundred camera's running facial recognition software, had to make sure no human got suspicious, and I had to avoid announcing myself. This last condition can be a bit of a stumbling block for a lot of villains.
There were other factors out my control. Noetron needed to maintain the illusion that I was a visiting maintenance officer, fooling whatever computer Cognis had concocted to check these records. The fake fingerprints on my hands needed to hold (I could probably reconfigure my fingerprints given enough time, but when I tried it hurt quite a bit. I considered trying to disconnect some of the nerves in my hand, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to put myself back together again).
I walked past a few interesting thing. Was that a particle accelerator? Nothing I couldn't make, but still pretty compact. And a fusion power plant cooled by water? Stupid. The whole place would go up in a steamy explosion if there were ever a malfunction. Finally, I got to the sanctum sanctorum, the room where the laser was held.
Well, to be specific, I loitered outside that room while my sensory tendrils analyzed the machine. It actually utilized some pretty novel ideas. Neat.
I made my way out, confident that I would make it back home without a scratch. When I found myself hanging in the air upside-down, I reversed that decision.
It took me a second to realize Vector was attacking me. Keeping me in midair, he turned me around to face him. He was hovering ten meters above the ground, a little bit above me. The most powerful hero in the world was looking majestic as always, his red hair flowing in the breeze, his telekinetic might holding him effortlessly aloft. "Care to explain what you're doing here?"
"Not really," I said. "Care to let me down?"
"Now, I'm going to assume you've already seen what you wanted to see. So what do I do with you."
"Let me off with a warning?" I was thinking through my options. Vector had been clever to yank me into the air. I didn't have any ranged weapons, so if he could keep me at a distance then I was powerless to harm him.
"Let me call Cognis. He can probably come up with a way to contain you that doesn't require me keeping constant watch."
Vector pulled out what looked for all the world like a cell phone. When he seemed to be about half way dialing, I struck. I unfurled my wings and flew at him, ready to ram him into orbit.
My wings could deliver incredible acceleration, and could close the distance between me and Vector in a fraction of the time it takes a human to react.
Unfortunately, nobody told Vector that human reflexes have limits. He stopped me. It wasn't easy for him, but he stopped me.
"You know my power lets me sense motion, right?"
Yeah, of course I did. But I also happened to know that three years earlier he'd had a car thrown at him and hadn't dodged. And I gave him a lot less time than the car did. Was he getting more powerful? Or was he just more sensitive to higher velocities? Something to test another day.
I snapped back into the present. My wings were exposed, and they were the one part of my body fragile enough that Vector could harm them. Actually, there were a few other places he could do temporary damage, but the wings were still a weak point.
"You tried to kill me." He sounded surprisingly offended. Wasn't attempted murder a daily concern in the life of a sueprhero?
"It wouldn't have killed you. I would have hit you at like a thousand meters per second. You've survived worse than that."
"Still, it's kind of jerk move. I'm not hurting you."
"You're holding me in the air against my will." I fired the thrusters in me palms at him. He deflected a hundred thousands Newtons of thrust like a telekinetic god deflecting a blast of fusion energy. Which he was.
I was more powerful than him. If I got just move closer to him I would be able to latch on and rip him limb from limb. No, wait, I was thinking about this all wrong. I just needed to get away from him. A distraction? Before I got innocent people involved, I decided to try to hurt him one last time.
I spat at him. He let the spit hit him, at a few hundred meters per second. "Now that was just plain rude."
I spat again. It missed him. It passed him. It hit the Project X facility. It passed through several dozen walls. It hit the fusion reactor. That reactor plunged into water, and four terajoules of heat were converted into work at high efficiency. The entire plant was blown apart.
"You did that?"
"Yeah. You gonna help the people inside?"
"Well, then you need to let me go. Unless you want to carry me around near a hospital or something."
I had put Vector in one of those classic superhero dilemmas. Like many heroes, he wasn't happy about it.
I felt an incredible pain in my abdomen. Vector was trying to shred my insides. Fortunately, I had very durable intestines, an he failed.
He moved up, trying to damage my heart. Failed.
Brain? Get real.
Eyes? Shit! That hurt. He reduced my eyes to so much jelly. "I know this won't stop you from escaping, but I hope it will."
He swooped over the burning building, picking up a few dozen injured lab technicians, and flew to the nearest hospital.
Meanwhile, I had to fly back to Estveria while blinded. Ugh.