Doc code 1278803-4576b
"Brainy, if I die, I'm going to kill you," Thaal informed me, staring down at what he had recently termed a 'flimsy wimpy belt-thingy'.
Nearby, Arno was fiddling with the gauntlet that had nearly injured Thaal before. "So does this work now?" he asked me.
"In theory," I replied, turning back to Thaal. "If you die, how are you going to kill me?"
"I'll come back as a ghost," Thaal told me with a scowl. "I don't care if you don't believe in ghosts. I'll do it."
"Well, good luck to you," I replied flippantly, pulling out a few other pieces of equipment and slipping a chest plate over Arno. "If it starts to get too warm, let me know first before trying to take it off. It might burn you."
Arno glanced down at himself in concern. "Um…it feels warm now."
"Arno." I gave him what I hoped was a sufficiently displeased look. "It hasn't even been activated yet. It is completely cool."
Arno tugged at the collar anxiously. "You're sure?"
I scowled and pushed back the face shield on his helmet so I could look him in the eye. "I'm certain. Cease your complaining." I followed this statement with a quick return to the pile of equipment, fastening a mechanical boot-like mechanism over Arno's left foot. "This is not your dominant foot, correct?" I verified with him.
"My left? No, my dominant foot is right. I'm right-handed too," Arno said. "But why does it matter?"
"It would be better to give you the dominant foot, but I'm giving Thaal the right one," I explained. "His dominant foot is his right foot and he needs it more."
Arno frowned in confusion. "But I have both gauntlets…"
I ignored him and headed back over to Thaal with the other reinforced boot-like instrument, which I connected to his right foot. "I'm sorry I couldn't provide two boots for this, but this should make do for the moment."
Thaal stared down at his foot as though my mechanism were eating it. "I'm not going to die, am I?" he asked me.
"Only if you do something stupid," I assured him before pausing momentarily. "That is, an act of stupidity that contains a greater quantity of idiocy than your average moments of foolishness."
Thaal swallowed hard. "Oh…kay…"
I returned to Arno, buckling a lower-body armoring over him. "Now, if you two will pardon me for a moment, I need to slip this on." I said, revealing a thin black jumpsuit with small stiff wires threading through it.
"It looks like the gauntlets," Thaal said, frowning at it.
"It is made of similar materials, designed to…" I reminded myself that Thaal would want simpler words. "…to make my muscles work more quickly. And also augment – " Thaal's blank look caused me to pause and seek a new word. "That is, amplify… er, enhance?" Thaal nodded in understanding. "It makes my muscles work more quickly and enhances my strength, allowing me to perform acts that my own muscles would not be able to perform without its assistance." I gestured to the back of the suit, particularly the neck. "It will link with my central nervous system along the cervical vertebrae."
"That sounds dangerous," Thaal said.
I shrugged. "Not particularly. Now avert your eyes please."
Arno nodded and turned away. Thaal continued staring at me in confusion. "Why?" he asked.
"Because I am not in the habit of performing strip teases for my friends. I need to put this on to test it. Now turn around!"
Thaal blanched and quickly whirled around. Arno snickered. "What's so funny?" Thaal demanded, and the two bickered while I quickly slipped on the jumpsuit.
"You may turn around now," I said, but the two continued bickering. I sighed, and slid the third helmet back on over my head. "You two, stop, and pull your visors down," I said, knowing it would transmit my voice into their helmets.
Arno and Thaal complied. I returned to Arno, clipping outer components onto the gauntlets. Arno eyed them with fascination. "They're so small. What's the power source?"
"You," I answered. "or technically, your bodyheat."
Arno blinked in surprise. "You can power things with bodyheat?"
I sighed. "Well, it wouldn't be very convenient if I had an external power source, which could be easily damaged and is not self-sustaining. Don't worry, I do have a backup source in case I happen to suffer from hypothermia or the like. However, this should be sufficient for what I have planned."
Thaal was eyeing the components with distrust. "Those look awfully like weapons, Brainy."
"They are," I replied. "Now, Thaal, if you would head out that way," I pointed in one direction, "And Arno, you go that way." I continued, pointing in the opposite direction.
Thaal continued to eye me with suspicion. "Why are you giving Arno weapons, Brainy? Don't I get weapons?"
I gave him a look and pointed. "That way."
"Brainy. Why don't I get weapons?" Thaal's voice had an edge of hysteria to it.
I sighed. "Because Arno doesn't have a force-field belt. You do."
"Wait, wait, wait, hold on!" Thaal shouted. "So you're saying that ARNO IS GOING TO SHOOT ME BECAUSE I'M WEARING THIS WIMPY BELT THINGY?" he gestured at the belt demonstratively.
I shrugged. "Essentially."
"NO." Thaal shouted, "NO WAY. YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS TO ME."
I shrugged. "All right, I'll wear the belt," I said, reaching for it.
"Wha- wait, hey, no!" Thaal said suddenly, clutching at the belt and moving away. "What if you get hurt?"
This was getting ridiculous. "Thaal. Either give me the belt or walk in that direction," I pointed, "But stop vacillating. It's growing tiresome."
Thaal glared at me, folded his arms, and stomped off in the direction I'd pointed. He slowed to a stop about fifteen feet away. "REALLY?" he shouted, pointing at the belt, "You couldn't make it sturdier?"
I made shooing motions at him.
"THIS IS INSANE!" he shouted at me, before whirling around and stomping a bit further.
"That's far enough," I called after him
Thaal whirled around, aggression obvious in his stance. "NOW WHAT?"
"You could stop shouting, for starters," Arno said. "We are using headsets, remember?"
Thaal's shoulders slumped slightly. "So?"
"So, you're hurting my ears." Arno sighed.
"Arno, would you please shoot Thaal?"I said blandly.
"WHAT? HOW DO I WORK THIS DEFENSE THINGY! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?" Thaal shrieked.
"Brainy…how do I…?" Arno sounded awkward. "…will I hurt him?"
"Just think about shooting him," I explain. "Visualize it in your head."
"WHAT?" Thaal yelped.
Arno nodded jerkily. "Okay, visualizing…"
Suddenly, the weapons on Arno's gauntlets whined, and the shoulder section whirred quickly, blasting off several rounds towards Thaal. Before he had the chance to shout yet again, a magenta-hued shield expanded from the belt, providing him with a 360 degree range of defense. Thaal threw his arms up around his face as the laser pulses exploded in his face.
"GAH! YOU!" Thaal whirled and pointed at me. "YOU TRIED TO KILL ME!"
"Nonsense," I rolled my eyes. "I wouldn't have given you a force field if I'd wanted you dead."
"SHOOT HIM NEXT TIME!" Thaal shouted in frustration, pointing at me.
Arno's head began to turn towards me. I saw the first problem with the neurological uplink technology that operated these weapons.
"SPROCK SPROCK ARNO NO!" I shouted, diving sideways, knowing it wouldn't be fast enough. "JETPACK SPROCK FLY!" I shrieked, glad I hadn't removed it. As I took off, laser fire clipped my ankle, searing across sensitive skin. For a moment, the pain burned through my mind, halting conscious thought. Then another shot ripped across my abdomen and into my shoulder, jolting me back into awareness. I dove downwards, nearly driving myself into the ground as I propelled myself behind Thaal, clutching at his torso. The force field belt repulsed any remaining laser fire, and then Arno's voice was screaming.
"BRAINY, BRAINY, I'M SORRY SPROCK BRAINY NO, NO, BRAINY!"
Thaal hadn't even found words yet, an unintelligible yell reverberating through the helmet communication system.
"I'm all right," I gasped, dismayed by the sound of my own voice, laced with pain. I tried to stand and bit back a moan, wobbling on one foot, trying to keep weight off of my right foot. My ribcage smarted from where I'd plowed into Thaal, and I was beginning to realize that a neural network link might have required more safeguards than I had anticipated.
"So…" Arno said weakly a moment later, "I guess that's all the field testing we'll have for today?"
"I guess," I repeated breathlessly. "Let's head back."
A/N: So, Brainy is not actually invincible! He can make mistakes! (not that we were under any false impression that he was incapable of making mistakes, but...) Honestly guys, I loved this. Something about the drama of Brainy and Arno and Thaal all flipping out... this is what I imagine a lot of scientific testing is like when you don't have the resources to test it properly. And Brainy is just arrogant enough to believe that he would always get it right the first time... Anyway, what does this mean for Legion auditions? And how is Brainy going to install safeguards to prevent friendly fire? And... yeah, well, if I keep asking questions I might start giving too much away, so let's leave it at that. Shout outs to those who happened to review this week, since I'd also finished the chapter this week. Hooray! Thanks so much for the reviews, I really love getting them and I read them all and get warm fuzzy feelings from them. And warm fuzzy feelings are good.