Chapter 9: No Comment
J'onn J'onzz of Mars had adopted an new human persona as Thom Jones, part-timer paramedic with Los Angeles Fire-Rescue service. He had thought it might be difficult to watch over the Son of Kal-El after Lois and Richard had moved to Los Angeles and Jason had started fighting sinister machines that looked human on the outside. But when the Martian observed Paramedic Charley Dixon coming to the aid of the human child John Connor, who appeared to be the target of the sinister machines, J'onn saw the opportunity to create Thom Jones and work together with Charley. Doing so had required a little fudging of the Martian's personal code since creating the persona had meant implanting a few faux memories in the minds of his new co-workers - Charley in particular - and establishing some subconscious trust bonds to ensure he was kept in the loop on any future developments regarding his charge.
J'onn would not fight Jason's battles for him, but the Martian would give the Last Scion of the House of El every opportunity to succeed. Right now that meant restocking the supplies in Charley Dixon's ambulance and adding anti-radiation medications and other Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) handling protocols, while Charley wrote up the reports on the morning's rescue activities.
Charley sat at a field desk writing up his reports in the garage of a fire station a few miles away from John's high school. He was working with a recent partner who had transferred in about a month ago. For a part-timer, this guy really knew his stuff: clinical skills were top notch and he even liked to restock the ambulance. If Jones ever wanted to move up to full time with Los Angeles Fire-Rescue, Charley would certainly write a favorable recommendation.
While he worked thru the reports, he mused on his day. There had been some routine forgettable calls: The ones where the paperwork took as much time as the call; not the sort to be discussed over beers after end of watch. So far, today had brought none of the really dramatic ones, ones to be talked about for weeks: multicar crashes on the freeways and huge fires. But there was one of the special category all its own: calls involving John, Sarah and Agent Ellsion. Those would be written up like forgettable calls and never talked about with anyone other than John and Sarah, except possibly for Jones. Charley found himself really trusting this new guy for some reason.
Earlier today, Charley had gotten John and the Very Scary Robot Girl away from the school and given them a chance to make it back to their house and go after some guy named Sarkassian. Apparently Sarkassian was some kind of mob figure who acquired a chess playing AI. Sarah thought it might be the seed that would grow into Skynet. Charley was not completely in that part of Sarah's life yet. Nor did he feel sure that he wanted to be. For him, the jury was still out. In fact, he wouldn't have believed what the Connors had gotten tangled up in, if he hadn't seen it for himself.
He'd patched John's uncle back together a few weeks ago, after the latter had suffered a gunshot wound. Then Charley had gone back to their house in street clothes, after end of watch, to check on him.
That was when he had seen IT. The body bag IT was in must have weighed over 200 pounds, yet Cameron carried IT over her shoulder like a sack of flour.
Outside in the detached garage, she laid IT out in a foot high rectangle of concrete blocks and removed the bag. IT looked like a corpse from a distance but when Charley peaked over Cameron's shoulder, he saw the missing hand with shiny metal rods where the radius and ulna bones should have been and control wires in place of tendons. IT had some skin peeled away from its face and underneath was not bone: three guesses but the paramedic didn't need two. It was more metal.
After checking Derrek's blood pressure and other vitals and talking with Sarah, Charley returned to the detached garage. He saw Cameron pouring powder into the concrete block rectangle where IT had laid before. Now IT looked down right freaky. Stripped of IT's outer human appearance it looked decidedly menacing. Charley saw the metal skeletal frame that mimicked a human's and the servos and pistons that replaced the muscles. The amount of armor and redundant systems inside IT told Charley that IT was built for combat. As an honorably discharged former Marine, he would know.
The paramedic reflected that something like that could be on some military engineer's design terminal somewhere, but nothing like that could be built today. The individual parts, yes; but the whole thing constructed and walking around and passing for human? No. Not possible. Not today. So where did it come from?
As crazy as it sounded, it had to come from the future. Occam's Razor: 'when you eliminate the impossible, the simplest explanation that fits the facts is probably right'.
That night in the detached garage, Cameron had told Charley that inside she was a lot like that thing. She lit a flare and dropped it into the rectangle of concrete blocks and the powder burst into flames so hot that even she had to leave the garage. It looked like the fires of hell consuming a metal demon.
Sometime, Charley would have to figure out how to tell his wife about all of this, sometime soon. It was starting to come between them. He had to decide where he stood first. For now, he finished up the paperwork on a call and pondered the last thing John said before he took off with his Machine girl. "A friend of ours will need some help this afternoon. Probably not very far from the school. It will be obvious. You don't want to be close by when it goes down, but be able to get there fast, okay?"
Charley was roughly jerked from his memories by an ear splitting crack off to the northwest. Looking out through the open garage of the fire house, he saw a green tinted gas cloud expanding into the sky. 'Obvious much?' the paramedic thought. No doubt that would be John's friend.
He overheard Jones on the radio from the cab of the ambulance. Charley and Jones were out of their assigned area and Jones was talking dispatch into letting them take the call for the explosion.
Dixon crossed the i's and doted the t's, knowing that his supervisors would live with it and threw the paperwork into his rescue bag. He stowed the field desk in the back of the ambulance and climbed into the cab. Jones put on lights and siren and together they raced to the scene.
As they got closer, Charlie had to maneuver around several stalled cars in the street. He noticed people standing outside half the shops and most of them were looking at their cell phones like they had all gone haywire.
"There was a minor electromagnetic pulse here." Jones observed.
Charley wondered, "Could it have been terrorists with some kind of small nuke?" 'Or the power core of a Terminator?' he added, he believed safely within his own mind.
"Look at that kid stumbling out from the narrow alley!" Jones called.
Charley realized that the kid must have been John's friend and absently wondered if anyone John knew ever had a normal day. Aloud he commented, "Looks like someone tried to jam a wide car into that narrow alleyway."
Jones gawked, "Dude, do you see the roof of that Crown Vic that's wedged into the alley?"
The car's roof looked like something ripped it open from the inside. And even from this distance Charley could see that the kid was bloodied and holding his side, and Charlie guessed that was John's friend. The paramedic wondered what he was getting himself into.
The team of two then exchanged glances of silent communication and as Charley parked the ambulance, his partner jumped in back, gathering the radiation sickness kit together and the Hazmat suits. Charley readied a gurney and the portable defibrillator in case they had to restart the kid's heart. "
"Do you know what that is there in the alley?" Jones asked as he passed a suit to Charlie.
Charlie began to don the HAZMAT suit. "A car that didn't fit?"
"It's an SEP. Someone Else's Problem."
Charley and Jones shared a chuckle at that. Sometimes laughter was all that kept paramedics sane.
Out the window, Charley saw the kid stumble, fall to one knee and puke all over the ground.
The paramedics climbed out the back of the ambulance wearing their Hazmat suits and carrying a gurney. "Come with me if you want to live." Charlie told the kid.
Jones looked at him with a huge question mark in his expression. How could Charley tell him that what he'd just said was like a challenge and password with the Connors and their allies? He couldn't. So he just picked up a cylinder of decontamination solution and sprayed the kid down.
The medics lifted the kid up onto the gurney so they could get him into the bus. He weighed more than he appeared to. Charley wondered if this was due a higher molecular density or if this kid was another bot, like Cameron. The kid gagged and dry heaved. That answered the question. Who would design a bot with a reflex action like that? Charlie started an IV of saline and with anti-radiation meds in the kid's left arm while Jones treated the burns.
The kid mumbled something about Amazons and sunlight.
Jones pluged his cell phone into a jack in the suit. "I'm calling the Amazon Consulate in Los Angeles. Find the patient's ID."
Charley checked the patient's pockets and produceed a school ID that said Jason White. The name meant nothing to Charley. He showed the ID to Jones. Charley noticed Jones's eyes narrowed slightly as though the name confirmed something. 'What does this guy know?' Charley wondered.
Jones droped the kid's name and told the Consulate something about an electrical substation explosion and radiation exposure. He gave their location and turned to Charley, "They want us to wait here."
Charlie elevated Jason's feet and grabed a blanket for him.
Both Paramedics removed their Hazmat suits.
A roaring whine sounded over the ambulance. Charley looked out the back of the bus. "There's nothing up there. What's going on?"
"Amazon invisible aircraft." Jones said as he climbed out the back to get a look himself.
Charley nodded as if that explained everything.
Both paramedics stared up at the place in the sky where the whine and the hard down draft of hot air were coming from. A gorgeous young woman, dressed in what looked like Ancient Greco-Roman battle armor climbed up out of ...nothing, an invisible cockpit? She stood on air. She didn't look Mediterranean and somehow that surprised Charley. The air shimmered and the babe was revealed to be standing on the wing of a gray jet airplane hovering there like a Harrier Jump Jet.
The airplane touched down in the parking lot next to the paramedics. All three of them struggled to get the kid in there and away they fly.
Charley and his partner looked at each other again. "S.E.P." Jones said.
"Wonder Woman, dude! That was Wonder Woman!" Charley cheered. Maybe this thing with the Connors would be cool after all. Naaah. But he would probably be in for the ride anyway.
At the Scientific Investigation Division of LAPD, reporter Lois Lane and photojournalist Kyle Rayner walked up to an elevator. "Oh and we got some good quotes from the LA County Sheriffs Office." 'Mad Dog' Lane was hot on the trail and enjoying herself.
"All right, that's true, but we didn't actually learn anything new." Rayner switched the settings on his camera's flash from outdoor/daylight to indoors/electric light.
"Well all the good evidence should be here," Lane responded.
"That is what the Deputy told us at LACS."
After the elevator, they made their way to the controlled access counter for SID. There were two sets of doors next to a small window with an officer. "Hi there! I'm reporter Lois Lane with The LA Planet and this is Kyle Rayner." Lois introduced as she slid her press pass under the quarter inch gap in the window glass.
"Her partner Kyle Rayner." Kyle added as his press pass to the lady's.
The uniformed officer examined the press passes then slid them back. "So, how can SID help the Planet today?" she asked through a microphone behind the glass.
Lois faked a smile. "We'd like to get a comment on the school shooting from yesterday."
"Most of the investigation, witness canvassing, and trauma counseling was done by the LA County Sheriffs," the door officer explained.
"We just came from there," Lois replied bruskly.
"Ma'am we understood there was some blood evidence. We were wondering if we could discuss it with the techs who did the analysis," Rayner added with a touch more kindness and respect than his partner seemed able to muster.
"Let me check," The door officer responded then keyed some codes into the terminal. The screen refreshed. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr Rayner. We can't comment on that any longer."
"Special Agent James Ellison of the FBI just took custody of that evidence and became the lead investigator on the case." She looked away from the window to an area behind the doors, and out of Rayner and Lane's view. "In fact he's walking up to the entry control point from the inside. You can ask him when exits."
Lois fumed quietly. Kyle smiled. 'Laugh, cry or get angry,' He thought. 'Laughter's always proved the most constructive for me.'
The exit door buzzed open and a dapper African American gentleman, wearing a gray suit, backed out carrying a sealed cooler, presumably full of dry ice with blood samples, and an accordion folder full of file copies. "Agent Ellison, can you comment on the blood evidence obtained from yesterday's school shooting?" Lois Lane shoved her digital recorder in the agent's face.
Rayner, on the other hand, saw that the door was rather narrow for a man built like a running back and carrying as much 'kit' as the agent. So, Kyle held the door wide while moving his Press Pass from the collar of his vest, to one of its many pockets. "Can I give you a hand with those, Agent?"
"No, chain of custody, you understand. But thank you for holding the door." Ellison replied with a smile and genuine appreciation as he began to walk back towards the elevators.
Lois scurried and shoved her way past the agent in the narrow corridor. She thrust her recorder into the Agent's face again. "Agent Ellison, can you comment?"
Kyle quietly put his camera back in its case and folded the shoulder strap up to carry the case discretely in his hand.
"No comment. Just two minutes ago, I signed the chain of custody forms, Miss..." The G-man looked down at Lane's Press Pass.
"Lois Lane, Los Angeles Planet. The people have a right to know! What can you tell us about-"
The agent stopped in place. "Ms. Lane you are as dogged and determined as Sarah Connor was a decade ago."
Suddenly the color drained from Lois's face. Wasn't Sarah the name of the mother of that kid her son was trying to help?
"Why Ms. Lane, you look as though you've seen a ghost," Ellison continued pleasantly, just a hint of irony tingeing his tone. "What's happened?"
"No comment." Lois put a hand in front of her mouth and fell back a pace or two as Kyle moved up next to the Agent and they resumed the walk to the elevators.
"I've always wanted to see a reporter say that."
"So have I, Mr..."
"Kyle Rayner, sir. I'd shake your hand, except..." the painter, Air Force Reservist, and part-time reporter himself replied as he gestured to the load the Agent carried. The two shared a chuckle. "I'm an artist, sir, a painter. I seem to have taken the wrong flight of stairs; can you show me the way out?"
"Rayner! Yes." Ellison looked truly impressed, "I've seen your work in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and at Kennedy Space Center."
"That would be my Celestial collection. I wanted those for l'Ouvre in Paris, but they ended up in the Smithsonian." Rayner deadpanned. "There are worse places."
"They were visionary!" Ellison beamed. "Right this way, Mr. Rayner. I'll show you to the express elevator." The Agent led Rayner into the car. Lois tried to shove her way in, but the Agent stopped her. "Sorry, We're full."
As the elevator moved Rayner reached into a pocket and produced an ID wallet. "In addition to being a painter, I'm also the Chief Operations Officer of the 166th Tactical Fighter Wing." He showed the Agent his U. S. Air Force ID card and his Daily Planet News Group creds. "We fly F-15E models out of Edwards Air Force Base. I have a top secret clearance and I know the difference between a good headline and National Security."
"A Major holding down a Lieutenant Colonel's position. You must be good."
"Not to brag, but I'm the best there is." Rayner sucked in his cheeks slightly, to keep from laughing.
"Or at least you're the best in the 166th Wing."
"Seriously, Agent. What's up with the blood evidence?"
"It's not blood."
"I glanced at the lab reports before I signed for the evidence. It looks like blood. It acts like blood. It contains plasma, platelets and white cells, but no hemoglobin and no red cells."
Rayner thought back to Biology 101 at the Air Force Academy. "Without red cells, how does it carry oxygen?"
"It has some kind of radically advanced synthetic oxygen carrier." The agent looked purposefully at the cooler in his arms. "I've seen samples under a microscope. They look like very tiny machines."
"Could it be nano-technology?"
"Yes, but it seems too advanced to be widespread use by criminal lowlifes."
"What do you mean by widespread?"
"This is the fifth sample in the last three weeks with this kind of anomaly. The Bureau recovered the last four and we kept it out of the press. We may not be able to do that with SID involved."
"If you let The Planet have it as an exclusive, I'll let you proof the copy."
The elevator doors opened, and the agent started to step out, then paused and turned back to the other man. "I have your word, Major Rayner?"
"Yes," Rayner said simply with a tight smile.
"Then there's a good chance we'll speak again, Major. Good day." The agent nodded then continued walking away.
"I guess this would be the part where the case starts to get dangerous," Rayner mumbles under his breath.
"Only if you don't tell me what you got, Mister." Lane pips in, a hint of menace in her voice. "Express elevator, my arse. I climbed the stairs faster than your 'Express Elevator'."
"So, Ms Lane, is it always like this when you work with the police?"
Jason awoke in the navigator's seat of an Amazon jet. Bright sunlight streamed in from above and below. He was still groggy and his eyes weren't focusing completely, but he saw a face peeking over the pilot's seat. Somehow she looked familiar. "You're not, Wonder Woman are you?" It seemed to take the lad forever to form the words.
"Stars, no! Only the Queen and the Crown Princess have ever carried that title." The woman replied as she extended her hand. "Cassiopeia. Captain of the Queen's Own Royal Bows and Swords ."
"Jashon," the kid managed to get out before passing into unconsciousness once more.
Jason awoke again sometime later, this time his eyes cooperated. His mind felt back in focus as well. As he looked around the interior of the aircraft, he realized, to his surprise, that he could see all the gages, dials, toggle switches and even a second set of flight controls. "Aren't Amazon jets supposed to be invisible?"
The lady to his left looked over with a subtle smile. "Ah, I see you're awake again. Good. How do you feel?" the pilot asked with what Jason recognized as an East Coast accent.
"Like I got run over by an Army Tank. How do I look?"
"Your wounds have closed up, and you have a bit more color to you. You seem to be healing pretty rapidly since getting into this sunlight. Fascinating, its effects on you seem quite similar to the effects of our purple ray. Tell me, how are your ribs? The paramedic said that you'd fractured at least two of them."
It was then that Jason remembered the shooting pain in his side and realized that it had vanished since his last bout of consciousness. He tentatively rubbed a hand over his rib cage and winced and sucked in a breath as he did so. "They're a little... 'soft' still, but I think they've started to mend."
"That's good," the lady responded with another slight smile. "And as for the plane, do you think you could drive a car with an invisible steering wheel, invisible clutch or invisible control gages?"
"No. I guess not."
"Same for us," the woman continued. "The outsides are invisible, but pilots have to be able to see the interior to fly them."
"So... advanced image filtering tech? The outer skin allows light to pass into the plane and at the same time records the image pattern being cast. Then the light is directed out the other side, but only after it's been manipulated to remove any trace of the interior and passengers."
The woman chuckled. "What? Too old to believe in magic, Kid?"
"No such thing as magic," Jason asserted. "Only Science we have yet to comprehend."
"So... not a very religious person, huh?"
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far. I can be quite religious at times. I merely subscribe to Johannes Kepler's view on things. To paraphrase, 'Science is merely the act of thinking God's thoughts after Him.' But whereas science leads to the discovery of the intricate mind of our Creator and the natural laws that govern all things, the term 'magic' is just used as an excuse used to avoid the research required for a full explanation."
Silence fell between the two; and as it did, Jason realized that, though it had not been his intention, what he'd just said could be considered quite rude. Here this Amazon was doing him a favor and helping him get the sunlight he needed to heal, and he'd basically just challenged the teachings of her people. He hadn't thought much while doing so, since he was use to such free exchanges around his 'Aunt' Diana. However, this was someone knew, and the lad suddenly realized he was likely making a pretty bad impression on the one helping him out.
Jason thought about apologizing, but as he considered what he knew of the Amazon culture the lad realized such an action would simply indicate that he didn't respect the woman next to him enough to trust her with his honest opinion. So he decided to switch the focus of their conversation instead and a try to reopen the dialogue. Remembering that the woman had extended her hand the last time he'd woken up but he'd passed out before he could shake it, Jason took the opportunity to correct this. "Glad to meet you Cassiopeia, and thanks for getting me into some serious sunlight." He extended his right hand with a grateful smile.
The Amazon looked over to her right once more and took the offered hand. "You are certainly most welcome, Son of Kal-El.
"Now. Strap yourself back in. We're close to bingo fuel, so we must make for the Consulate most directly."
Cassiopeia let Jason take a shower at the Consulate, unfortunately he had to continue to wear John's shirt and the jeans that were somewhat worse for wear, with sweat and blood stains. At least his face would look clean when he got home.
Lois couldn't bring herself to listen as he told his dad about the fight with the T-888, so she gave him a hug and went back to watch FOX-13 news at nine in her room. In the lead story, she saw an interview with a Paramedic team who responded to 'a mysterious melt down of a high tension electrical wire support structure.' She knew this was Jason's battle and switched the channel to CNN.
When the lad finally made it up to his room, to floop down on his bed, he'd almost forgotten part of his plan. Jason groaned as he got up and walked over to his computer. It wasn't a high end machine like the one John had, just an economy model from Wal~Mart. However, it was more than capable of performing the tasks its user required: typing up school reports, researching things online, and emailing his few friends.
It was the Email that Jason was interested in at that moment. He turned on his PC and double clicked on the Internet Explorer icon. The MSN homepage popped up, and Jason entered his hotmail account. He started a new message and selected "PoliceGirl117" as its recipient. It was two days before their regular, weekly, correspondence. But they'd been emailing each other since Jason was ten, and he knew that she checked her email each day before she went to bed and would get his message:
"Hey, Jason here. Please come to LA asap. I need a favor. If at all possible, don't let your boss find out. Thanks..." Jason began, entering the details of his favor and enough background info to get his close friend up to speed.
Lex Luthor stood next to a cheap desk with an old rotary telephone and a few meaningless papers stacked on top of it. He looked toward the window, at an expansive view of downtown Metropolis and the waterfront. He rubbed the fingers of his left hand over his bald head. 'It's not the view from the CEO's Office in Luthor Corp Plaza. But then few views are,' the 'business man' reflected as he considered that at least he wasn't starring at a brick wall. Then the stickum holding the poster in front of the window came loose from the top right corner: No, not a brick wall at all, now he was looking at a concrete wall.
The man extended a hand to his assistant who deposited her chewing gum in it. He used the gum to tack the poster back up just as the land-line phone started ringing. Luthor sighed and picked up the handset. He listened, the answered, "Yes, this is Harry."
Luthor turned towards a book shelf with a few old business books and dusty law tombs, several dust bunnies and empty space. "Of course I'm still interested in the chess-playing machine. But you lose the 20 bonus and you bring it to Metropolis. Don't ever be late again."
The bald man drew himself up to his full height and felt the tension in his muscles as his ire started to rise. He abruptly cut the other party off, "I don't care if it was the SAS or Mossad broke into your HQ and stole your hard drives last night. If you can't handle the patrol of Fireside Scouts you just described to me, then you don't deserve to do business with me again, and there won't be a next time." He slammed the phone back into its cradle.
Luthor turned to face the room's other occupant. The slender blonde wore a chauffeur's cap, a black uniform shirt and a short skirt. She also had wonderful legs, but Luthor didn't pay them any mind. She popped her chewing gum. "You showed him, boss."
"Indeed. I'll teach that West Coast Armenian, Sarkassian, to trifle with Lex Luthor. Let's go Mercy."
The chauffeur pulled the cover off the phone jack and ripped the line out of the wall. "Trace that!"
And then the two headed out of the building and back to Lex's black Lincoln.
Have a good day, and God bless.
Metropolis Kid and Chris St Thomas.
* Chapter written by Chris St Thomas, reworked and edited by Metropolis Kid.